Tuesday, 6 February 2018


Finished January 29
Elmet by Fiona Mozley

This novel was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, and I can see why. Set in Yorkshire, this story around an unusual family is one of innocence, violence, and class struggle. The narrator, Daniel, is a boy, then teen, living with his older sister Cathy, and their father. They had lived with their grandmother for their early years, but when she died, they waited for their father to come, and he took them to the forest where their mother grew up, and built a home for them there.
Their father was a big man, a man whose presence alone could make others back down. He made his living by fighting other men, for money. He had been an enforcer in his younger days, but he is at heart a gentle man, one whose size dictated his life. Cathy takes after him to a certain extent. She doesn't like being indoors, and will drive herself hard to show that she is physically capable of doing something that requires skill and effort. Daniel loves both his father and Cathy, and is the more domestic of them. He gardens and cooks, does laundry and reads books. He enjoys the outdoors and isn't uncomfortable with the outdoor tasks, but he enjoys the sessions being tutored by a woman down the road, which Cathy does not.
Things are going well, until, suddenly they are not. A local landowner comes to tell them that they are living on land that belongs to him, and can't go on living there unless he gets something in return. And when the family begins talking to others in the area, they find workers and tenants who are also being treated badly by the small group of local landowners. And a plan begins to come together.
The story is told in Daniel's voice, interspersed by a later Daniel, alone and moving slowly north, following a trail he isn't even sure exists.
This is a story I had trouble getting out of my head. I needed to know what happened to bring Daniel to this later point, and to know the outcome of his trek.

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