Debate Time! Elmet - Fiona Mozley

June 4, 2018

Up next for debate – Elmet by Fiona Mozley, one of last year’s shortlisted books for the Man Booker Prize, no less. Did Lucy and Nick love it as much as everyone else did? Let’s find out!        

     

Daniel is a lad who lives in relative poverty with his sister Cathy and his father, who earns money from fighting. Neither members of the travelling community nor town citizens, they live on the edge of society, mostly keeping themselves to themselves. That is, until Mr Price, a wealthy man who is also landlord of several properties in the area, comes calling...

 

Lucy: Nick, I can’t believe you’ve only just got around to reading this.

Nick: Yeah, I know – especially as everyone was talking about it last year. It was one of those books that I was a bit ‘iffy’ over to be honest, but the good news is, I’ve finally finished it!

Lucy: I’d love to know your thoughts on this one, because for me, it was a mixed bag.

Nick: I really enjoyed it. My god, do you think we’re about to do a massive role reversal here? That I’m going to be the one to gush about it, and you’re going to be the one to point out the flaws?

Lucy: Ha! Yeah, go on then, I’ve got my ‘bad cop’ hat on. Not that I didn’t enjoy this book, that wouldn’t be fair at all. But I had issues with it. Let’s start with the overall premise, which I appreciated. The whole set-up of a family living in poverty, the community surrounding them – all of that I thought was really richly imagined. I could picture what this Yorkshire landscape looked like really well.

Nick: Totally! And this was enhanced by the narrative. It was so simply conveyed, yet so powerful. I love that the author never over-complicated things – she always kept it authentic and true. You know how I like that in my books – less flowery language and more artful, deft storytelling.

Lucy: I’d agree with you for the most part. My one big criticism is the dialogue and the dialect. It just didn’t feel Yorkshire to me? I don’t know why. It seemed to slip in and out of Yorkshire-isms without much consistency, and that jarred a bit.

Nick: I didn’t notice that at all. Are you very familiar with how Yorkshire people talk, Luce?

Lucy: I see where you’re going with this! No, I admit, I’m not that familiar; it’s not like I’ve lived there or anything. But I have an idea of what Yorkshire folk talk like, and this just didn’t resonate quite right with me.

Nick: What about the characters themselves? I loved that the brother and the sister (Daniel and Cathy) both broke the gender stereotypes. Cathy is fearless, aggressive and secretive; Daniel is gentle, non-confrontational and creative. That was such a strong aspect of the book.

Lucy: I totally agree with you there. I loved the characterisation. I thought the way their father was portrayed was also superb – this highly sympathetic fighter, he’s almost like a fallen angel or something, he has this lovely quiet dignity. I enjoyed all the scenes he was in.

Nick: Yeah, the only character I wasn’t so enamoured by was Mr Price; the ‘baddie’. He was a bit too stereotyped for me, I’d have liked to have seen more layers, more depth.

Lucy: Yes, something that made him not totally mean and horrible. He was a bit ‘villain-by-numbers’ wasn’t he! Now, let’s go on to the part I had the most issues with – the ending.

Nick: I had my reservations about it too. Without giving too much away, it was a bit implausible, wasn’t it?

Lucy: Highly implausible! Speaking bluntly, that would never happen. As in, it couldn’t physically happen, if you know what I’m saying.

Nick: Yes, I hear you! And I felt the same. It was such a shame, because the rest of the book was spectacular, in my opinion. It was too over-dramatised, and how I wish the author had chosen to end it differently!

Lucy: So, what are you giving this one, then?

Nick: I’m going to give it a big fat 4 out of 5 stars. It would have been a 5, had it not been for the ending.

Lucy: I’m going with 3.5 stars. Like you, it would have been higher without that ending, because this book was beautifully written.

Nick: Yup. Amen to that!

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