Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Elmet by Fiona Mozeley


A small family builds a house in the forest outside the village of Elmet.   John is the father, a giant of a man who makes what money they need in fights and doing favors for others.  The children are Cathy, 15, and her brother Daniel, 13.  The land they possess used to belong to their mother who disappeared from their lives and who sold the land to the man who owns most of everything in Elmet, Mr. Price.  

The family lives happily off the grid, hunting and growing their food, building their own furniture and tending to the forest and land.  The children go to the house of one of John's friends, Vivian, who teaches them what she can.  Daniel loves the lessons but Cathy is a child of outside and usually leaves early to go listen to the animals and roam the land.  

But paradise is always ruined.  John and a former union organizer create a plan to help the villagers against Mr. Price and his cronies.  These men hire the villagers at day labor for a pittance but the rents on their cottages rise year after year.  Organized, the men are able to negotiate better pay and lower rents but it comes at a price.  John must agree to one last fight for the landowners.

After that fight, a crime occurs and the life the family has been living is ruined forever.  They stick together and fight to remain as a family but everything around is against them.  The village will never be the same nor will they.

This debut novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2017.  Mozeley creates a world that seems perfect yet dreamlike and unable to exist in the world as it is.  John, the father, is a man comfortable with himself and his body and attempts to do what is right.  Cathy is most like John and is determined to also live life on her own terms.  Daniel isn't sure what his life will be but knows he needs these two individuals by him to be happy.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction. 

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