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Allen & Unwin is thrilled to be publishing Below Deck, the highly anticipated debut novel from author Sophie Hardcastle. A haunting story about the vagaries of consent, about who has the space to speak and who is believed.


From the publisher

‘Publishers dream of novels like Below Deck. It probes and tests the lines between humans and landscapes, safety and threat, art and daily life, health and illness through characters and language of luminous intensity and rare, real power. Blending gorgeous nature imagery, philosophical curiosity, and a story as insistent as a heartbeat, this book will grab you by the scruff of the neck and won’t let go.’—Kelly Fagan, publisher




‘Below Deck will leave you breathless. Sophie Hardcastle is a phenomenal, courageous talent.’Clementine Ford, author of Fight Like a Girl and Boys Will Be Boys

‘Lyrical, profound, and deeply moving, Sophie Hardcastle’s Below Deck will confront as well as soothe, and is the most tender, hopeful battle-cry of a book.’Brooke Davis, author of Lost and Found

‘Hardcastle has captured the powerful words so many of us struggle to find, and I cannot imagine anyone could finish Below Deck unaffected.’Bri Lee, author of Eggshell Skull and Beauty

‘The free-flowing intensity of the wind and waves that drives her characters’ lives, also powers Sophie Hardcastle’s memorable prose. Her writing sweeps us through hemispheres and across oceans with astonishing and immersive force. This is a deeply moving story of a young woman growing up, and Hardcastle is an extraordinary talent.’—Elleke Boehmer, University of Oxford

‘Fierce, poetic and uncompromising. There’s a lot of hype surrounding Sophie Hardcastle’s Below Deck. It’s warranted.’Simon McDonald, Potts Point Bookshop

‘It’s impossible not to be affected by this book. Set between Sydney and London via the Tropics and the Antarctic ocean, Below Deck is so much more than a fictional account of harrowing experience. It’s about personhood, self-discovery, art, nature, community, the colour of voices and the sound of sailing. Love it. Love it. Love it.’Ben Hunter, Booktopia

‘Three years ago I read 156 new novels as a judge for the Man Booker Prize. This was on a par with the top 20 of them … I commend Sophie not only for her gifts but for her great courage in writing about some very difficult material in an unflinching and deeply moving manner. To have written a novel that speaks implicitly but never didactically to the trauma of the #MeToo age … is an astonishing achievement.’—Sir Jonathan Bate, University of Oxford


About the book

And then, just like that, a thought bubbles inside me. It’s a beginning; a new beginning; my beginning. The beginning of the story I tell myself in order to survive.

We choose to breathe, don’t we?

Twenty-one-year-old Olivia hears the world in colour, but her life is mottled grey. Estranged from her parents, and living with her grandfather who is drowning in sadness, Oli faces the reality of life beyond university alone.

When she wakes on a boat with no recollection of how she got there, she accepts the help of two strangers who change the course of her future forever. With Mac and Maggie, Oli learns to navigate a life upon open ocean and the world flowers into colours she’s never seen before.

Four years later, Oli, fluent in the language of the sea, is the only woman among men on a yacht delivery from Noumea to Auckland. In the darkness below deck, she learns that at sea, no one can hear you scream.

Moving to London, Oli’s life at sea is buried. When she meets Hugo, the wind changes, and her memories are dust blown into shapes. Reminding her of everything.

Below Deck is about the moments that haunt us, the moments that fan out like ripples through the deep. So that everything else, becomes everything after.


About the author

Sophie Hardcastle was born in 1993. She is an author, artist, screenwriter and scholar. In 2018, she was a Provost’s Scholar in English Literature at Worcester College, at the University of Oxford, where she wrote Below Deck. In 2017, Sophie was an artist-in-residence with Chimu Adventures in Antarctica.

Sophie is the author of the critically acclaimed Running Like China (2015) and Breathing Under Water (2016). She is the co-creator, co-writer and co-director of the online series Cloudy River.


Read an extract

Read the first chapters of Below Deck here.


Reading copy giveaway

For your chance to receive one of ten advance reading copies of Below Deck, email us at and tell us why you’re excited to read it!



Sophie Hardcastle will be available for events during March. If you are interested in holding an event with Sophie, please contact Isabelle O’Brien email:




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