Book club: Reader review
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Jeni says: Elmet wasn’t what I expected it to be.
I’d read that Fiona Mozley had begun writing the novel on her mobile phone, during her daily commute, and – very unfairly – I thought Elmet might therefore be as lightweight as the sort of novel you’d buy at a railway station, along with a bottle of water and a packet of Polos.
But it took only a few pages for me to realise that this wasn’t your ordinary novel of childhood in rural Yorkshire. There’s a raw horror that grabs the Elmet reader from the beginning, drawing you in to the world of these characters who exist in an other worldly place, on the
edge of time and place.
This isn’t the Yorkshire of Betty’s, of the Ribblehead viaduct and of summers on the beach in Scarborough. This is the Yorkshire as captured by Ted Hughes in “Remains of Elmet”, which Mozley nods to in the opening epigraph. The Yorkshire hills aren’t a thing of beauty here – they’re “deep and limpid”, and the “ mean gritstone” sits “high up near sour heather.”
The South Pennine landscape is as rugged, brutal and changeable as Daddy, the looming figure at the centre of the novel, whose behaviour is terrifying, and yet tender. And as the novel progresses and the violence within Daddy bubbles and grows, the landscape itself becomes increasingly bleak. Just as the moors drew Danny and Cathy together, it divides them, prompting comparisons with Heathcliff searching for his Cathy on those same moors centuries before.
This is a must-read book – and one that deserves to be talked about and read again, as one reading simply doesn’t do it justice.