Atmospheric and verging on magical realism, this novel evokes the ethereal and claustrophobic nature of a family isolated from society by culture and geography. Following the timeline, and written in the first person of, a boy growing up in Blakeney and the Lincolnshire fens. We follow the events leading to his birth, the circumstances surrounding his heritage and the painful way England in the post war decades dealt with issues which might seem trivial today.
The spectre of mental illness hangs heavily over the whole piece, affecting several generations of the same, seemingly doomed, family. I was hypnotized by the almost druggy, hallucinatory sense of bleakness and stifled desperation viewed through the prism of a damaged silent child’s memories. Really emotional in places, this book has a way of creepily needling you inside, and as such wouldn’t be appropriate for a holiday read in the Maldives, more for a dark winter’s night by the fire fuelled up with a large port.
I was also fascinated to learn that he went to school with my sister in law and that he grew up in the village where my mother-in-law still lives. Blakeney is only a short drive away. And his love for, and familiarity with the location is obvious. Sit in a pub in Cley reading this book looking out over the marshes and you will feel you are there.
Bitesized version: Bleak, magical, transporting and tragic. A Norfolk Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with a touch of the Wallander landscape. Think – an epic song by the Doors or Pink Floyd about a family struggling to communicate and survive in an unforgiving environment, with plenty of realistic Norfolk dialect.