This little book, ELMET by Fiona Mozley, took me by surprise in a big way. Which is saying a great deal, as it isn’t very often that first-person point-of-view books move me so deeply. This is first-person narrative done exceptionally well, where we see and feel and experience so much.
ELMET book is emotionally moving – its lush descriptions of a remaining little copse of trees in a British town where a family takes root, its tale of familial love and heartbreak, its rallying of community, the community’s subsequent break-down and build up once again. This is the story of a fighter – three fighters, really, with incredible mettle.
The small forest setting (which I adored) was symbolic of so many things in this story. The tending of the trees with great care paralleled Daddy’s care and tending of his children, Daniel and Cathy. The forest’s wildness – and gentleness – was indicative of Daddy’s personality. Its struggle to remain, with the clearing of fields for farming and industrialization and population growth, was a mirror of Daddy, himself: the last of a special kind of thing, once abundant.
Daddy’s character was so well done. A man who paid the bills by using his body and brute strength in fights is also a man supremely concerned with treating animals with gentleness. He is a man of principle, a veteran, trying to shield his children from the world, while making them a part of the Earth, itself. His children are wholly different from one another, but both share parts of his complexity. They, too, are fully formed characters for whom I ached.
I look forward to the next book Fiona Mozely writes. ELMET is her debut book and won a long list of literary honors, which are well-deserved.
(A version of Melissa Crytzer Fry’s review of ELMET by Fiona Mozley was published at GoodReads on Nov 11, 2018. It is reposted here with the permission of the reviewer.)