Happy Friday! Today I have a review of Elmet, which is easily going on my favorites of the year list! I read this with a dear blogger friend. Please read on so I can tell you how much I adored it!
With Elmet, Fiona Mozley has written a literary masterpiece. At first, the reader learns that Elmet is a sanctuary, a strip of land viewed as a safe haven and with Celtic history. This is where Daniel, his Daddy, and his sister, Cathy, land. The father, flanked by his two children, and living in a small copse, builds the home with his own hands. Living off the land, they are choosing life on their own terms.
Daddy is a fighter- past and present. He is brawny, and all the fighting is beginning to take its toll on him as he ages. Cathy is a fighter like Daddy. She is slight, but full of vigor and power that surprises anyone who is the target of her rage. Daniel is perhaps less strong physically, but I would offer his heart is the strongest of all.
There are issues with right and wrong in the community and how it pertains to workers’ rights. There is also a seedy, villainous landlord, Mr. Price, who raises issue with this family living on “his” land, and there is backstory to that relationship.
Elmet surprised me with its tension and suspense. This is a literary thriller in every sense, and the story ratcheted up and up with each chapter. I worried about this family’s future, and a feeling of foreboding is present. Mozley’s writing is lightly descriptive. She has a way of painting the most vivid imagery with precise words, and the entire story flows easily- so easily, in fact, that I devoured this book in just three sittings.
I found the themes of protection- protection of family and children, of children for their father, and of safety and safe haven from society’s ills, to be powerful and resonant. I was enthralled with the tender sides to Daddy, Daniel, and Cathy, and how close-knit their love for each other was. My favorite aspect of the book was the exploration of the father-child relationship and the role that protection plays in that. It was refreshing to have a father depicted in this way, and the spotlight shown on the special dynamic between a father and his children (even if the father was not perfect).
In short, I was completely charmed, mesmerized, and haunted by this book. I loved it so much I bought the UK copy to go on my shelf alongside a US copy.
I had the pleasure of buddy reading Elmet with my good friend Beth of Bibliobeth. This was the best kind of read to share. I learned and was enriched from Beth’s insights, and our discussion enabled me to dig much deeper into the story. I look forward to our next of many reads together, and please check out her smart and beautiful blog if you haven’t already. She’s quite simply one of the best around.
Fresh and distinctive writing from an exciting new voice in fiction, Elmet is an unforgettable novel about family, as well as a beautiful meditation on landscape.
Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.
Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.