Cathy, Daniel, and their father live on a plot of land in the forest, but calling them homesteaders would be a misnomer. They're squatting on the land, and barely getting by. Their father boxes and works odd jobs to bring in some money, but for the most part they live off the land and keep to themselves. Their solitary life changes when the landowner starts to sniff around the house they've cobbled together. The trio help start an uprising among the day laborers who work for the landowner, putting together a union of sorts. That sets in motion a series of events that forever changes their lives.
This dark, lyrical story is narrated by Daniel, the youngest of the family. He plainly worships both his father and his older sister, but as he ages he starts to see their faults and the limitations of their lifestyle. He doesn't have the stomach for the vicious streak that runs through Cathy and his father, who both seem to thrive on physicality. Their home is a peaceful one, but outside its walls both Cathy and their father won't hesitate to use their fists to get what they want or need. Daniel lives mostly in his head, caught up in his thoughts, but his father and sister are happiest when they are outside in the muck and cold, leaving their mark. The sense of place Mozley evokes is as beautiful as it is brutal, sparing nothing in her descriptions, whether it's Daniel's musings on his tutor-slash- babysitter's mascara and dressing gowns or the bright spill of blood and viscera when Cathy cleans a pigeon for dinner. The tone is gothic and some dark themes are dealt with, but through it all there's an innocence and lightness, from the lilting cadence of the Yorkshire accent to Daniel's simple yet pragmatic outlook on the world.
Reviewed by ba, 04/18. Other reviews by ba.