“The dawn erupted from a bud of mauve half-light and bloomed bloody as I woke.”
Elmet is told from the point of view of Danny, the youngest sibling and it revolves around his sister Cathy and their life with Daddy in rural Yorkshire. Billed as contemporary noir & it’s easy to see why: stripped to it’s bones Elmet is a good vs evil story with an underdog who’s morals are skewed enough to have you thinking is he not the evil himself.
Mozley’s characters are three dimensional and I found myself connecting easily with our protagonist trio and itching to find out more about them. I was also much intrigued by Vivien and would have loved a further exploration of his relationship with both Daddy and Danny.
“Nerves treated people differently. Our anxieties were focussed on the same target but each from a different angle and with their own tints.”
The novel is preceded with what appears at first to be verse – but we soon learn that this is our narrator, Danny, in the present time, after the story has taken place. A clever narrative structure and one I’m always happy to endure.
“Sometimes I thought I could sleep for ever. Sometimes, pulling myself out of a dream to be awake and alive in the world was like pulling myself out of my own skin and facing the wind and the rain in my own ripped-raw flesh.”
Mozley’s prose is fresh, lyrical, vivid and gritty. Setting is key in this story (as one can imagine from the beautiful image on it’s cover) and Mozley sets her scene exquisitely. Reminiscent at times of Sarah Perry’s prose in The Essex Serpent, Mozley’s novel has many similarities with Fridlund’s History of Wolves which are both debut novels. Both texts are similar in tone and evocation of setting and with child protagonists but somehow Elmet felt more real to me; less of a mystery and straight up grittiness. Kind of like the adult version of History of Wolves – can I say this? Well, I did :’)
“We all grow into our coffins, Danny. And I saw myself growing into mine.”
Elmet is a dark, gritty tale which doesn’t shy away from the violent side of life, that being said it’s a quiet one. Quiet and with an ending that doesn’t tie up neatly, but sort of lingers ever afterwards in your mind.
A chilling, haunting debut well worth it’s place on the shortlist. 4 out of 5 stars.