Thursday, 26 July 2018

Elmet by Fiona Mozley

review by Maryom

Daniel is on the road, following the railway tracks north, looking for his sister. For a while they lived an idyllic sort of life - him, Daddy, and older sister Cathy - in a house Daddy built himself in a small patch of unwanted isolated woodland. They lived almost completely 'off grid', hunting and foraging for food, having little to do with folk in the nearby village. At home their life was one of peace and simplicity but away from it, Daddy's life was one of violence, clandestine prize-fights and acting as a 'fixer' when debts weren't paid. When these two worlds collide, someone's bound to get hurt ...

Daddy's 'occupation' allows him to live on the fringe of society, but the 'real' world can't be ignored forever, and the woodland idyll is threatened by folk who care about law, property ownership, and their rights. Piece by piece, Mozley raises the tension, building a great sense of brooding violence in which you feel almost anything could happen, and Daddy is backed into a corner with only one way to respond.

It's a story rather reminiscent of a Martin McDonagh script - folk going about their day to day lives getting caught up in violence outside their control - or one in which a retired hitman is called on to do one last job, with devastating consequences to his family, mashed up with a Robin Hood style tale of the 'little man' trying to overcome those with land and the backing of law.
The peaceful existence in the wood jars harshly with the outside world, and Mozley seems equally at home bringing both to life on the page - a delight when the reader's experiencing the woodland through Daniel's eyes, a horror when violence erupts.
Things start a bit slowly, with lots of back story and I wondered where the plot was going, and how long it might take. To be honest, there were times when I nearly gave up ... but then the beautifully descriptive writing caught me, and the sharks started to circle Daniel's little bit of heaven, waiting for the first opportunity to oust his family, and I found it a book I couldn't put down.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Genre - Adult Fiction,

1 comment:

  1. There is something quite timeless about this story, which fits in well with the rather slow build-up. And, of course, as you say, the writing is beautiful - but lyrical with a purpose, rather than just self-indulgent.