in a hollow land

by uzwi

Tree surgeon Molly and his young assistant Nick find a dreyful of abandoned baby squirrels. Who will mercy-kill them with the edge of the spade? Nick winces away from the idea. He’s big with gym-built muscle but he’s not hard. The thing Molly hates most about him is not his emotional vulnerability, it’s the way he doesn’t even try to hide it. Because in Molly’s day, “The way it was in the valley, you made weakness see itself.” But then point-of-view switching tells us something Molly doesn’t know about who his daughter’s fucking, and the story, propelled suddenly in a dangerous direction, ends just before one or another act of repressed violence. Dramas like these play without a safety net. You take Molly and Nick and all the others as you find them, inside the blasted but still optimistic social geology around Bacup and Accrington. Without closing his eyes to anything, James Clarke makes it possible to do that, in a novel constructed like a compound eye, full of insight, empathy and wry laughter. My review of James Clarke’s second novel, Hollow in the Land, in the Guardian…