Elmet /

by Mozley, Fiona,
Physical details: 311 pages ; 22 cm ISBN:9781473660540; 1473660548.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017

WINNER OF A SOMERSET MAUGHAM AWARD

'A quiet explosion of a book, exquisite and unforgettable' The Economist

'A cleverly constructed rural Gothic fable . . . Elmet is a marvellous achievement' TLS

'Pastoral idyll, political exposé, cosy family saga and horror tale, it reads like a traditional children's story that turns into a gangster film: Hansel and Gretel meets The Godfather' Sunday Times

Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned menacing and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them in the woods with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted.

Cathy was more like their father: fierce and full of simmering anger. Daniel was more like their mother: gentle and kind. Sometimes, their father 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.

Brutal and beautiful in equal measure, Elmet is a compelling portrayal of a family living on the fringes of contemporary society, as well as a gripping exploration of the disturbing actions people are capable of when pushed to their limits.

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. Told in first-person narrative by a much older Daniel, 14-year-old Daniel lives with his 16-year-old sister, Cathy, and their father in a house they built with their own hands in a remote area in Yorkshire without the landowner's permission. When the landowner, Mr. Price, finds out about the house on his land, he galvanizes the locals against the family. Leading to a confrontation that leaves nobody unscathed, most of all Daniel.

Shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize, 2017.

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

We arrived in summer when the landscape was in full bloom and the days were long and hot and the light was soft. I roamed shirtless and sweated cleanly and enjoyed the hug of the thick air. In those months I picked up freckles on my bony shoulders and the sun set slowly and the evenings were pewter before they were black, before the mornings seeped through again. Rabbits gamboled in the fields and when we were lucky, when the wind was still and a veil settled on the hills, we saw a hare.   Farmers shot vermin and we trapped rabbits for food. But not the hare. Not my hare. A dam, she lived with her drove in a nest in the shadow of the tracks. She was hardened to the passing of the trains and when I saw her I saw her alone as if she had crept out of the nest unseen and unheard. It was a rare thing for creatures of her kind to leave their young in summer and run through the fields. She was searching. Searching for food or for a mate. She searched as if she were a hunting animal, as if she were a hare who had thought again and decided not to be prey but rather to run and to hunt, as if she were a hare who found herself chased one day by a fox and stopped suddenly and turned and chased back.   Whatever the reason, she was unlike any other. When she darted I could barely see her but when she stopped for a moment she was the stillest thing for miles around. Stiller than the oaks and pines. Stiller even than the rocks and pylons. Stiller than the railway tracks. It was as if she had grabbed hold of the earth and pinned it down with her at its center, and even the quietest, most benign landmarks spun outrageously around, while all of it, the whole scene, was suckered in by her exaggerated, globular, amber eye.   And if the hare was made of myths then so too was the land at which she scratched. Now pocked with clutches of trees, once the whole county had been woodland and the ghosts of the ancient forest could be marked when the wind blew. The soil was alive with ruptured stories that cascaded and rotted then found form once more and pushed up through the undergrowth and back into our lives. Tales of green men peering from thickets with foliate faces and legs of gnarled timber. The calls of half-starved hounds rushing and panting as they snatched at charging quarry. Robyn Hode and his pack of scrawny vagrants, whistling and wrestling and feasting as freely as the birds whose plumes they stole. An ancient forest ran in a grand strip from north to south. Boars and bears and wolves. Does, harts, stags. Miles of underground fungi. Snowdrops, bluebells, primroses. The trees had long since given way to crops and pasture and roads and houses and railway tracks and little copses, like ours, were all that was left.   Daddy and Cathy and I lived in a small house that Daddy built with materials from the land here about. He chose for us a small ash copse two fields from the east coast main line, far enough not to be seen, close enough to know the trains well. We heard them often enough: the hum and ring of the passenger trains, the choke and gulp of the freight, passing by with their cargo tucked behind in painted metal tanks. They had timetables and intervals of their own, drawing growth rings around our house with each journey, ringing past us like prayer chimes. The long, indigo Adelantes and Pendolinos that streaked from London to Edinburgh. The smaller trains that bore more years, with rust on their rattling pantographs. Old carthorse-trains chugging up to the knacker, they moved too slowly for the younger tracks and slipped on the hot-rolled steel like old men on ice.   ***   On the day we arrived an old squaddy drove up the hill in an articulated lorry filled with cracked and discarded stone from an abandoned builders' yard. The squaddy let Daddy do most of the unloading while he sat on a freshly cut log and smoked cigarette after cigarette that Cathy rolled from her own tobacco and papers. He watched her closely as she spun them with her fingers and tipped tongue over teeth to lick the seal. He looked at her right thigh as she rested the tobacco pouch upon it and more than once leaned over to pick it up, brushing his hand against her as he did so, then pretending to read the text on the packet. He offered to light her cigarettes for her each time. He held out the flame eagerly and took offence, like a child, when she continued to light them herself. He could not see that she was scowling the whole time and frowning at her hands as she did his work. He was not a man who could look and see and understand faces well enough to tell. He was not one of those who know what eyes and lips mean or who can imagine that a pretty face might not be closed around pretty thoughts.   The squaddy talked all afternoon about the army and the fighting he had done in Iraq and in Bosnia and how he had seen boys as young as me slashed open with knives, their innards a passing blue. There was little darkness in him when he told us this. Daddy worked on the house during the day and in the evening the two grown men went down the hill to drink some of the cider the squaddy had brought in a plastic pop bottle. Daddy did not stay long. He did not like drinking much and he did not like company save for me and my sister.   When Daddy came back he told us that he'd had an argument with the squaddy. He had clouted the squaddy about the head with his left fist and now had a bloody nick in his skin just by the thumb knuckle.   I asked him what had started the argument.   "He were a bastard, Daniel," Daddy said to me. "He were a bastard."   Cathy and I thought that was fair enough. Excerpted from Elmet by Fiona Mozley All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Listeners are advised to be patient with this story. It takes time to figure out the names of some primary characters and whom the narrator is seeking in the "current" chapters of the book. Much of the novel is background for the events that lead to the "current" pursuit. This background has exquisite descriptions of the modern remains of -Elmet, an ancient kingdom in West Yorkshire, England, where Daniel and Cathy live with their father, John. John has built a cottage on land previously owned by the children's mother but is often away prizefighting. They live off the land by poaching game and growing a small garden. Mr. Price, the real landowner, wants the family to leave, or to employ John as an enforcer to bring his other tenants into line. Mr. Price organizes a large prizefight that John must win to protect his land for the children. Continued family existence leads to desperation and violence. Narrator Joe Jameson's characterizations are excellent, and his accent perfect for the setting. -VERDICT This novel is highly recommended for adult audio collections.-Cliff Glaviano, -formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Mozley's debut, shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, is a rugged, potent work whose concentrated mixture of lyricism and violence recalls Cormac McCarthy. A taciturn giant of a man, a bare-knuckle fighter who is the "fastest and toughest... in Britain and Ireland," builds a house for himself and his two children in the Yorkshire woods, where "the soil was alive with ruptured stories that cascaded and rotted then found form once more and pushed up through." In this secluded spot, he attempts to strengthen his two children, a slight, observant boy and an indomitable girl, "against the dark things of the world." Dark things soon intrude as the family becomes embroiled in a bitter dispute with a villainous local landowner and his two entitled sons. That conflict generates overheated scenes of gore and overlong speeches that dissipate the novel's power. There are nevertheless many eerily beautiful scenes, particularly one in which the grizzled father rigs up rustic Christmas lights deep in an ancient copse. Mozley is best when describing the tight-knit family in its isolated splendor, creating, and then clinging to, their "strange, sylvan otherworld." (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* A young man, dirty, hungry, and determined, is searching for his sister on the moors of Yorkshire, once the ancient kingdom of Elmet, now a land poisoned and impoverished. The page turns; the seasons roll back; and readers learn the story of how Daniel, 14, Cathy, 15, and their father, John, a giant of epic strength, abandoned town life and built a simple home deep in the woods. Our world was about muscle, Daniel observes, and about the traditional skills needed to live off the land and off the grid. John hopes to keep his self-reliant children safe in this strange, sylvan otherworld. But this man of steadfast integrity and old-world morality, this bare-knuckle boxer and enforcer, has enemies, and the land is not theirs. Shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, Mozley's preternaturally accomplished debut novel is a riveting and disquieting fable of a family reaching back to life's essentials and embracing nature's beauty, abundance, and challenges, yet remaining caught in the perpetual twist of human good and evil. In pristinely gorgeous and eviscerating prose, Mozley, who chimes with Hannah Tinti, Lydia Millet, and Daniel Woodrell, sets ablaze a suspenseful family tragedy stoked by social critique, escalated by men's violence against women, and darkly veined with elements of country noir.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2018 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

A not-always-gentle giant and his two children live peacefully in the woods, but the push and pull of old forces will eventually find them, and the results will be explosive.Part fairy tale, part coming-of-age story, part revenge tragedy with literary connections, Mozley's first novel is a shape-shifting, lyrical, but dark parable of life off the grid in modern Britain. Its narrator is 13-year-old Daniel, the tall, sensitive son of John Smythe, a man mountain who makes his living as a bare-knuckle fighter. Daniel, his lovely, fearless older sister, Cathy, and their father live in a house John built in a copse, on land that once belonged to the children's mother. They are self-sufficient, fed by game they hunt, seated on furniture they built. It's an idyllic if elemental life, lived largely outside society, until landowner Price, who once employed John as a debt collector, arrives to apply some pressure. Soon John is helping lead an insurrection of underpaid farm laborers and oppressed tenants against Price's clique of farmers and power brokers. The deal that will resolve this confrontation requires John to fight a brutal match, but the violence doesn't end there. Mozley's title refers to a Ted Hughes poetry sequence and a West Yorkshire setting with deep historical roots. Her ruined Eden of a landscape is evoked with beauty and empathy: "The soil was alive with ruptured stories that cascaded and rotted then found form once more and pushed up through the undergrowth and back into our lives." Ecological messages, class and gender conflict, and England's long history of struggleall are mingled with Daniel's sexual awakening and a surreal, or superhuman, or quasi-spiritual, gothic and gory final reckoning.Mozley's instantaneous successthis debut landed straight on the 2017 Man Booker Prize shortlistis a response to the stylish intensity of her work, which boldly winds multiple genres into a rich spinning top of a tale. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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