Although the story is set in contemporary England, it is only the occasional mention of cell phones and trucks that keeps one from thinking that the story takes place in some much older, almost fantastical time (the title refers to an ancient kingdom in Yorkshire). It's a dark story -- one knows from the beginning that something terrible will happen, so dread is always with the reader, a good thing because one needs to be prepared. The narrator, 14-year old Daniel, his older sister Cathy and their father live pretty much off the grid in a cabin in the woods where they try to have little to do with other people. Daniel's father earns money by fighting, and he used to work for a wealthy landowner, shaking up tenants for overdue rents. ["He was a human, and the gamut upon which his inner life trilled ranged from translucent surface to beyond the deepest crevice of any sea. His music pitched above the hearing of hounds and below the trembling of trees."] Cathy takes after her father and is strong, fierce, willful and protective of her small family, while Daniel is small for his age and does the cooking and gardening. It's fortunate that Cathy and Daniel have learned to take care of themselves because, when the owner of the woods where they live accuses their father of killing his son, all hell breaks loose.
Mozley's writing is almost like poetry in its lyricism and use of language. She takes time with descriptions that bring you up short with their beauty, even when she is describing violent acts that are difficult to imagine. This novel is a brilliantly written piece of work about the indestructibility of family ties. You'll want to read it in one sitting, but be careful because you'll lose yourself in it and wonder where you are when you finally put it down. Highly recommended— Alice
The family thought the little house they had made themselves in Elmet, a corner of Yorkshire, was theirs, that their peaceful, self-sufficient life was safe. Cathy and Daniel roamed the woods freely, occasionally visiting a local woman for some schooling, living outside all conventions. Their father built things and hunted, working with his hands; sometimes he would disappear, forced to do secret, brutal work for money, but to them he was a gentle protector.
Narrated by Daniel after a catastrophic event has occurred, Elmet mesmerizes even as it becomes clear the family's solitary idyll will not last. When a local landowner shows up on their doorstep, their precarious existence is threatened, their innocence lost. Daddy and Cathy, both of them fierce, strong, and unyielding, set out to protect themselves and their neighbors, putting into motion a chain of events that can only end in violence.
As rich, wild, dark, and beautiful as its Yorkshire setting, Elmet is a gripping debut about life on the margins and the power--and limits--of family loyalty.
About the Author
Fiona Mozley was born in Hackney but grew up in York and studied at Cambridge before moving to Buenos Aires for a year -- without speaking any Spanish. After briefly working at a literary agency in London, she moved back to York to complete a PhD in Medieval Studies. She also has a weekend job at the Little Apple Bookshop in York. Elmet is her first novel and has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.