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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

God's Own Country by Ross Raisin

Well, it has been a good while since I've encountered an absolutely top-rate read so I am delighted to say that I have no hesitation in awarding God's Own Country a 5 star review. I picked this up after seeing several reviews by bloggers who were left disturbed but largely impressed, and I'm really glad I made an exception to my 'no-acquiring-books' pledge.

God's Own Country is a tale about Sam Marsdyke, a 19-year-old farmer's son living in the North Yorkshire Moors. Expelled from school under controversial circumstances and ostracised by his peers, Sam lives a lonely life with only the land and his animals for company. When the neighbouring farmer dies and his land is bought by a family from the city, Sam strikes up an awkward friendship with Jo, their teenage daughter.

From the very first page you can't help but be struck by the strong first-person narrative voice. The book is written entirely in broad Yorkshire dialect and Sam springs vividly to life from the outset. I found him instantly amusing and likeable, and was left trying to decide whether he has been unfairly accused and judged by his community, or whether he is guilty of a heinous crime.

The premise of the book is not exactly an original one - reclusive loner develops obsession with attractive young girl - and I have found it difficult to write this review without comparing it to The Collector by John Fowles which is one of my all-time favourite reads. I heard strong echoes of that book throughout the novel. Both have a working-class male protagonist with a simple, slightly old-fashioned view of life and a strong narrative voice. Both have a female character who is middle class, self-confident, maybe precocious and manipulative at times which leaves the reader trying hard not to empathise a little with the man, even when their obsessions take a disturbing turn. For me, the main characteristic that sets God's Own Country apart from The Collector is its humour. Sam is darkly hilarious at times and the dialogue is littered with dry wit and one-liners about city folk invading the countryside. I also enjoyed the haphazard nature and disjointed punctuation of Sam's narrative, which reflected his chaotic mental state, in stark contrast to the cold, calculating nature of Frederick from The Collector.

Something else I really loved about this book was the excellent description of the bleak beauty of the moors and the harsh, relentless lifestyle that a farmer has to lead. It served to remind me of the incredible hard work that must be involved in farming, and of the fact that families like Sam's are becoming rarer.

God's Own Country is undoubtedly dark and disturbing, but is filled with humour and boasts one of the most memorable lead characters I have encountered in ages. I would really recommend picking up a copy


  1. I like the sound of the setting and I really like the cover. I do have to be in the right frame of mind to read prose written with a strong accent. Takes a lot of concentration!

  2. It isn't something that always bothers me, Ellie, but in this case I did feel the need to pay that bit more attention, particularly as the punctuation & sentence structure are a bit all over the place to reflect Sam's disturbed psyche. I'd definitely recommend tackling it sooner or later though!
    Thanks for stopping by the blog.