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Like Smith’s Doggerland, Rym Kechacha’s Dark River (2020) draws links between the neolithic past and the climate changed and challenged near-future, although Smith’s interludes into the past are more brief observational notes unlike Kechacha’s protagonist driven narrative. What is unclear is how far the Old Man might be a trustworthy accomplice, or an obstacle to be overcome. Doggerland is brilliantly inventive, beautifully-crafted and superbly gripping debut novel about loneliness and hope, nature and survival—set on an off-shore windfarm in the not-so-distant future. We’ve got a number of books that hit our shelves before we shut our doors, and perhaps didn’t get the love they deserved, so we’re shining a light on these fantastic new(ish) titles now. The narrative takes on a captivating momentum when Jem discovers, tethered to a distant turbine, his father’s old maintenance boat, which he was priming for escape.

Salt water rusts all the metal it comes into contact with, meaning a losing battle to keep the facility in any kind of repair. Conversations between the boy and the old man sometimes veer off on tangents too, based on a single misunderstanding (not helped by large helpings of that aforementioned homebrew) and the frustration imparted in these exchanges is excruciating in the best way possible. Also included bonus pic of sister with spaniel, and some cheeky avian punters who got on without paying. I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and HarperCollins UK/ 4th Estate in exchange for an honest review. Overall, though, I found 'Doggerland' a rather frustrating fable as I couldn’t identify what, if anything, was being allegorised.Part of the pleasure in reading this novel comes from trying to piece together an understanding of what exactly is happening on the mainland, considering that the perspective given to us is that of two people stranded in the middle of nowhere. The legal obligation that binds Jem to fil his father’s place is not only indentured service, but a hereditary one akin to slavery without any mention of pay, or shore leave.

The pilot – in the role of not-quite-stranger coming to town – provides a narrative impetus with a revelation that spikes Jem’s interest in what happened to his father. It took me a little while before I started to enjoy Doggerland – was the most exciting moment really going to be when the boy found a shoe in his fishing net?On the one hand, they may meet Nikoleris et al’s aims in giving the reader compelling individuals facing complex dilemmas whose plight generates empathy (and so promotes reflection on climate change). Or the way the boy will be repairing a turbine, only to find an example of his father’s handiwork – something akin to a haunting in this seemingly most unmagical of settings.

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