Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Out Backward" or "God's Own Country" - Ross Raisin


Sam Marsdyke is a lonely, beyond socially-awkward young adult who lives on his family's sheep farm in rural Yorkshire. With no one to talk to, he creates his own stories and dialogue, but the thick patterns take a while to understand. Still, between the thick Yorkshire brogue, slang, and made up words, there are several funny moments, like when watching a ram's castrated pal:

"[...] poor castrated sod who kept himself pot-of-one the rest of the year waiting for his charver the tup to come and stay, though I didn’t know what the bugger it was them two had to talk about. Been up to much lately, oh, you’ve been rutting have you, that’s nice, I don’t much go in for that myself these days, not since my knackers were sliced off."

Sam begins a friendship with the new "townies" who move into a nearby farmhouse; their daughter reaches out to Sam, not knowing that the reason he was kicked out of school was due to accusations of rape. As story unfolds, the reader knows it can't end well, but the combination of the unique voice and the natural desire to watch a train wreck carry one through to the final chapter.

Long-listed for the Dylan Thomas prize, the novel is best read when alert and functional. It takes work to understand Sam. Still, I think he's one of the best delusional and unreliable narrators since Keyes's Flowers for Algernon.

3.75 out of 5.0 Ward Eights.

2 comments:

moonrat said...

Interesting review. An editor friend sent me a copy, but I haven't been able to drum up enough interest in it yet, so I appreciate an outside opinion! Honestly, from your review, I'm not sure the book is meant for me.

Kristin Dodge said...

It's a bit of a downer... I'm trying to shake it. While I always love a fresh voice, I don't always love the book.