Where I End By Sophie White – A Review

Publisher: Tramp Press

Publication Date: 13th October 2022

I am a huge fan of Sophie White. I loved her book Corpsing and I listen to her podcast The Creep Dive every week. So when I was asked if I’d like a proof of her new novel Where I End I jumped at the chance!

This book had me utterly gripped at the same time as being utterly uncomfortable and unsettled!

Where I End is told from the perspective of 20 year old Aoileann, a girl living on a remote island in Ireland. She lives in a small cottage with her grandmother and her mother who she calls ‘the bed-thing’. This is due to the fact that her mother has been bed bound for as long as Aoileann can remember. She is an inert, unresponsive being who Aoileann calls ‘it’ as she helps her grandmother to winch and shunt her mother around the cottage, taking care of her basic needs, washing and feeding and changing her nappies.

Aoileann’s father only visits them once a month to sit with ‘the bed-thing’ but leaves Aoileann and her grandmother alone the rest of the time taking care of her needs. Aoileann and her grandmother take great pains to keep her hidden from the rest of the islanders who already treat Aoileann as a cursed being, spitting to protect themselves and avoiding her at all costs.

Aoileann is not sure what turned her mother into this withered and rotting specimen, unsure of what event happened to make her this way and why nobody talks about it. But she has also started to come across letters and symbols carved into the wooden floor in her mothers room. Scratched into the timber by her mothers exposed finger bone on her rotting hand. What can the letters mean and how come they find her immobile mother in places she shouldn’t be able to get to in the dead of night?…..

When an artist, Rachel, arrives on the island with her new born baby, Aoileann takes an obsessive interest in her and finds a focus for the unfulfilled love of a mother….

This is such a dark and hugely unsettling book which you all know I love! It has so many elements that are like catnip to me. There’s body horror, isolated island life, superstitions, cruelty, motherhood and long buried family secrets.

The way that Aoileann and her grandmother treat her mother is cold and brusque with no hint of tenderness or love whatsoever which makes for uncomfortable reading at times. As a reader you are unaware for a long time why this woman has ended up how she has and it almost feels unfathomable that she should be treated this way, however you also bear witness to the terrible life of drudgery and toil that Aoileann has been saddled with in being expected to care for her mother.

Aoileann is treated terribly by the islanders and lives a closeted life trying to shrink away from their judgmental eyes. Her only sanctuary is swimming in the sea. A sea that has claimed many islanders lives if rumours are to be believed. It is during a swim that she meets Rachel and from here a tentative friendship is formed. But what for Rachel appears to be a comforting relationship as she struggles with the exhaustion of new motherhood is something altogether darker and more obsessive for Aoileann.

I don’t really want to say anymore about the plot as I think this is a book you need to discover for yourself. Sophie’s writing is beautiful despite the gut churning content. Her depictions of the island and the cottage really place you firmly there. I was in no doubt as to the landscape and the atmosphere.

It also has one of the best first pages I have read and it just got better and better!

I loved it!

Thank you so much to Helen Richardson and Tramp Press for my proof copy.

See you soon.

Amanda xx @bookishchat


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