This is a powerful and surprising novel from a debut writer who now finds herself on this year’s Man Booker short list: Elmet by Fiona Mozley [London: JM Originals, 2017], and she’s only 29! It is also a real page-turner that some readers will work their way through in a couple of days or less. There is no question that it is valid contender for the Prize. We shall see very soon.
Though set in a contemporary world, the story has a back-to-nature atmosphere with teenager narrator Daniel recounting how his bare-knuckle prize fighter Daddy builds a house for himself and Daniel’s older sister Cathy in the middle of a coppice which they work to provide them with timber and game they barter in the locality. There is a snag. The land is not Daddy’s but belongs, in fact, to the local Mr Big who used to employ Daddy as an enforcer. Having let him build the house and settle in, Mr Big now demands a price. Will the price be paid or can Daddy, Cathy and Daniel break away from him?
The taut and atmospheric language is very accomplished; the descriptions of their natural world especially effective. Mozely may have partly written Elmet on her mobile phone but this is not a Twitter novel but an already mature work. The story builds to a wonderfully terrifying climax that has few equals in contemporary fiction. Highly recommended.