Larchfield by Polly Clark
One of the most beautifully written novels of 2017 so far and I have no doubt will feature as one of my books of the year. Larchfield the debut novel by Polly Clark already shortlisted for the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize is one book that should be on everyone’s ‘must read’ books this Spring. I have high expectations for this book through 2017.
A novel set over two time-frames firstly during the early years of the 1930’s and a young poet W H Auden was based at Larchfield School and then to the present day when Dora tries to cope with motherhood and a life that seems to be in isolation. It is not unusual these days in literary terms to see novels set over two time-frames but Clark as more than written a timeless novel this is a modern day classic, it is just so beautiful and captivating in every sense.
Dora’s life is one really one that she looks back on and thinks of what could have been. She met her future husband (Kit) while they were both studying at university. Dora had dreams of being a writer and has swapped that life for a life in a large converted house and they live in one of the flats, she has to cope with the baby more or less on her own and feels alone and there is an overwhelming sense when reading that the walls are closing in on Dora as there is mistrust between her and those that live in the other flats. All this while her husband seems to be away working all the time. Dora is alone and depression is setting in and there is some concern here for her welfare and that of her baby. Dora tries to cope by escaping into another world that only she knows.
Meanwhile back in 1930 Auden is to struggling but in a very different time and different sent of scenarios he was viewed with suspicion because of his sexuality and mocked by the very school boys he is trying to teach. Just imagine for one moment the mental torture that Auden himself must have gone through not just trying to teach and write poetry but the bigotry that must have followed.
For both Dora and Auden two very different people sent in two very different timeframes the results are the same a crisis for both a human crisis. For both Clark has treated so passionately and sensitively that you feel for both protagonists to the point of shedding a few tears. You connect with both characters as the need for compassion is so very strong through the pages of Larchfield that you just want to reach out to both. Maybe in a way just by reading that is exactly what we are doing. This however is a novel but built on personal experiences after she moved to Helensburgh and the desolate isolation she felt. Without doubt one THE debuts I have read in a long time. Unforgettable and deeply moving as well as haunting. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Elizabeth Masters for the advanced review copy.
Larchfield by Polly Clark is published by riverrun an imprint of Quercus Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops from 23 March.