breathing under water || book review


. breathing under water .
By Sophie Hardcastle

I am so excited to bring you the first of many of my book reviews today! When I was younger I never really loved reading, and as I got older I would just simply look for pretty pink covers and I knew I would get some girly young adult novel I would enjoy. Reading was a part of my life but I never really got lost in and amongst it. It wasn’t until after I lost my dear mum 3.5 years ago and I needed a way to escape my own feelings and dive into another magical world. I also wanted to be able to know I wasn’t alone and have someone to relate to. I found myself reading book after book… crying, laughing, smiling, thinking, questioning and everything in between. I loved it and in a strong way it helped me heal over time. Being the empath I am, sometimes reading would allow me to take on the emotions of the book quite strongly but in another way it made me treasure feeling something. I love being moved by something, feeling inspired, feeling everything that the characters were feeling…in a time of grief it reminded me, I was alive!


. . . . .

The lovely Sophie Hardcastle, now a good friend of mine is an Author, Artist and Free Surfer. She is inspiring 1000’s of girls all over the world through her emotive, free spirited, honest and just beautifully written novels. After discovering her by chance after her first novel, a memoir ‘Running Like China’ came out, I knew I needed to know her. She has changed my life through her words and lead me to stay up till early hours in the morning contemplating my life path and inspiring me to take a leaf of faith. Her stories bring about so much emotion and are exactly the type of novels I love to dive into. They take you on a journey, they allow your soul deep within to feel the cool ocean breeze and the icy water tickle your ankles as she describes these moments in her book. I feel something when I read her book, and in those moments between the words I know I am truly a l i v e.

“Breathing Under Water is a lyrical and emotionally powerful novel about life, death and learning to breathe in between.”

…And boy oh boy was is that and much much more! The very cover itself provoked something deep within me and brought me back to moments I’ve had myself… sitting on the sand looking out to the ocean feeling ever so close to my mum, and allowing myself to just breathe and simply be.

This book was honest in such a powerful way. Having been on the journey of grief myself, this book powerfully showed you the healing that takes place, and what needs to happen within yourself for you to move forward. It really shows the way these times can pull people a part and then also bring them back together again. How allowing yourself to fall to pieces can also give you the power to build yourself back up how you wish. This book shows in such a beautiful way the power of nature and mother earth. In how just as we as humans heal, so does nature know how to heal and balance itself. The very connection to the ocean in the book is just powerful beyond anything I can explain. It is something you need to read, to feel and to get lost in yourself… and if you are a lover of the ocean or surfing you will feel at ease reading the lyrical and descriptive ways Sophie uses the ocean as a form of healing. In both of her books that was such a standout for me… I always felt like I was right there in the pages swimming under waves and gliding my hand along the top of the water alone at night. Its truly magical the gift that Sophie has and for her to share that with all of us is a greater than anything we shall ever receive.


. . . . .

I was lucky enough to speak with Sophie and ask her a few questions about her new book:

The beautiful title ‘Breathing Under Water’ paints a real picture of the feelings that come up within this story. Can you explain further why you chose this title, how it came to you and what these words mean to you? 

Sophie: When I was young, the book was called Horizons, because I loved the focus of the horizon, and how my characters would turn to it repeatedly throughout the book to read the swells on the water. The times when the horizon is indistinguishable are just as affecting.

Horizons however, belonged to the fourteen-year-old me version, and I needed a name that married with the mature version I wrote later when I was twenty-years-old.

My publisher and I were deliberating a name for several months and when we finally came up with it, I was sitting beside my car in Newtown, on the phone to her. We were trying to think of the most poignant moments in Grace’s life, to try and capture one of those moments with a single word or phrase. It’s hard to answer this question without a spoiler, so I’ll refer to the chapter and anyone who has read the book can go back to it and see what I’m talking about. Read the end of chapter thirty-three, When She Sings. This is a major turning point for Grace and I believe it encapsulates her connection to the ocean, as well as the ocean’s ability to heal her. The title was born from that moment.

The ocean is so well described throughout the book and has such a presence in the way it brings people together. Why do you believe the ocean is so well connected to us as humans and our soul? What is your own experience in how the ocean has healed you?


Water is the lifeblood that binds us all, we’re more than 50% water. When we die and our bodies break down, parts of us will eventually end up in the ocean. We’ll become the clouds and the rain

It’s no surprise to me that I feel a visceral connection to the ocean. How can I not?

All my loved ones have had their ashes scattered in the sea. When I swim beneath the waves, I feel their energy. I think if you slow your heart down, dive beneath and feel, like really feel the tides, you can feel the past.

The ocean has healed me in my darkest hours. It strips everything back and is purifying.


I believe this book is again just like your first book bringing some wonderful topics to the surface, which is just amazing and inspiring, so Thank You! I wanted to see what the future holds for you now and if there is a possible third book on the way?

IMG_4005Sophie: I’m in my final year of a Bachelor of Visual Arts, majoring in pain
ting. So at the moment, I’m covered in paint most days! I have started my next book
though, and I’m two chapters in! I’m still getting to know my main character, Maddie, but I’m really excited for the journey she is about to embark on. Unlike Breathing
Under Water,
it is a love story. (Although, it’s not just any love story!) It’s everything young love really is. It’s heartbreaking, nerve-wracking, terrifyingly beautiful

Grace learns to read the swells on the sea. Maddie learns to read the wind on Open Ocean.

I’m so excited to be embarking on research trips for the book. I’m following parts of Maddie’s journey and it’s taking me up the East Coast of Australia on a yacht, and to Antarctica!!

As a published author now and such an inspiring role model for young girls, how does it feel to have achieved this at such a young age? and what does it mean to you to be able to bring awareness to things such as Bipolar and grief in your books and have such a beautiful, positive influence on the next generation of youth?

Sophie: I’m very flattered by this question! When I was younger, I wanted to write books that would change the way people see the world. I’ve received emails from people saying I have change their views or inspired them, and I find that really validating. I feel like I’ve followed my intuition and made the right choices. Before I wrote Running like China, I was at university studying visual arts and although I was enjoying it, I wasn’t passionate about it. I asked myself, am I proud? And the answer was no. I wanted to be a writer and realised I wouldn’t be happy until I honoured that. I deferred university to write my first two books. Having established myself as an author, I’m now finishing that degree but something has changed in me. I can honestly say I am proud and hope that my books continue to challenge and affect people’s lives.

Follow Sophie & her beautiful journey:

✦ Instagram
✦ Website/Blog
✦ Facebook
✦ Goodreads

You can buy Breathing Under Water HERE .

Love & Light,
Leana xx

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