Yes, the cover attracted me and then I remembered I’d read Ben Myers’ novel The Gallows Pole. That breakthrough novel is to be filmed by Shane Meadows later this year and I’m very much looking forward to it.
The Offing is Myers’ latest and is beautiful in its descriptive language, simplicity and understanding and capture of nature.
It’s set in Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire, immediately after the Second World War. Robert is a young lad from Durham who, realising he’s not cut out for following his forebears down the pit, sets off south to explore.
He reaches Yorkshire and the novel beautifully contrasts the coast blighted by coal and industry further north with the fishing and minor tourism of Yorkshire.
Robert is hungry and meets Dulcie, an eccentric character who has dined with DH Lawrence and others and introduces the young man to poems, rich food and the opportunity for sea swimming. He does odd jobs for food and a bed beneath a lean-to in the fields.
The book is gentle but rewarding and there are beautiful passages such as when Robert rambles down the dark, subterranean clefts from the moors towards the sea. He traces the ‘claw-marked calligraphy’ of the badgers. He touches kissing gates whose tops were worn ‘skull-smooth by the clammy palms of several centuries of passing land workers and hill wanderers.’
Robert learns a great deal from Dulcie and this chance encounter changes his life. There is a sadness behind Dulcie’s fascinating and well travelled exterior but you’ll need to read to learn what it is. You could read this book for the descriptions of nature, the endless possibilities in life….or you might wonder what chance can throw up and learn how new-found friendships can change everything for the better. Roll the dice like Robert.