A novel set almost entirely on the North York Moors, with its dramatic landscape, rural life and conflict with change. This is the backdrop to the story of a disaffected teenager working on his family's farm.
The story is written in the Yorkshire dialect with reduced punctuation, (there are no inverted commas, for example) and yet it is easy to follow and warming in its colloquialism. Some of the expressions really did make me laugh out loud although there are some words I don't know the meaning of. Yorkshire folk do have a good turn of phrase. It is from the point of view of the boy, in the first person, so we are in his head as he thinks about the work on the farm, the moorland walks and the ramblers whom he ridicules, resents and annoys with childish pranks.
The protagonist is a complex character who is capable of extreme cruelty but also touching affection for the sheep he works with, wild animals and sheepdogs. He adores the Yorkshire moors - 'God's own country'. Mostly working alone he converses with the sheep (and towards the end, a seagull) and he imagines that they answer. This makes him more amiable despite the dark aspects of his disturbing personality. He has no friends other than a new neighbour, whom he refers to as 'the girl', and is socially awkward when in public. All this is portrayed well through the protagonist's thought processes.
The story shows in great detail the life of a sheep farmer as it goes through the seasons of mating and lambing and the traditions of the farming community.
A major theme is the conflict between the rural community and the wealthy people who buy up the land and farmhouses. There is resentment for the 'towns' as well as the farmers who sell up for development. The author certainly knows about life in Yorkshire.
The story becomes increasingly darker when the two teenagers go on a journey across the moors. There are misunderstandings, assumptions and chilling naivety expertly expressed in this original and engrossing dark tale.
Published by Penguin on 5 February 2009