Ness by Robert Macfarlane & Stanley Donwood
Somewhere on a salt-and-shingle island, inside a ruined concrete structure known as The Green Chapel, a figure called The Armourer is leading a ritual with terrible intent.
But something is coming to stop him.
Five more-than-human forms are traversing land, sea and time towards The Green Chapel, moving to the point where they will converge and become Ness. Ness has lichen skin and willow-bones. Ness is made of tidal drift, green moss and deep time. Ness has hagstones for eyes and speaks only in birds. And Ness has come to take this island back.
What happens when land comes to life? What would it take for land to need to come to life? Using word and image, Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood have together made a minor modern myth. Part-novella, part-prose-poem, part-mystery play, in Ness their skills combine to dazzling, troubling effect.
A shingle spit of land off the Suffolk coast lies Orford Ness now it is reclaimed by nature but years before it played a part for nearly seventy years as scientists carried out secret military research covering from WWI to nuclear weapons. Ness (Hamish Hamilton) by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood is more than just poetry and words it speaks from the shifting winds that change the landscape of Ness.
There on this shingle land is a concrete building called The Green here there is a figure who is called the Armourer who is conducting a ritual and it is a ritual with terrible meaning soon there are forms that are more than just humans and their intent is to stop him from carrying out his intent.
It is a landscape for birds and this landscape is coming back to reclaim it back for nature. This is poetry, this is a novel, it is prose. You can judge how you wish to view this astonishing short book. Like Ness itself it is just magical and beautiful. Now it is quiet except for the sound of the wind and the sound of the birds that have reclaimed Orford Ness and the sound of shingle underfoot.
A Hagstone is when water and other elements pound the stone so that eventually a hole appears. It is folklore that says to view through a Hagstone is to look at the past, or the future. This is beautiful book of under 100 pages.
Thank you to Hamish Hamilton for the review copy of Ness by Robert Macfarlane & Stanley Donwood.
Ness by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood was published by Hamish Hamilton on 7th November 2019 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.