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Larchfield

Larchfield

‘Mysterious, wondrous, captivating’ Louis de Bernieres

‘We need the courage to choose ourselves’ W. H. Auden


It’s early summer when a young poet, Dora Fielding, moves to Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland and her hopes are first challenged. Newly married, pregnant, she’s excited by the prospect of a life that combines family and creativity. She thinks she knows what being a person, a wife, a mother, means. She is soon shown that she is wrong. As the battle begins for her very sense of self, Dora comes to find the realities of small town life suffocating, and, eventually, terrifying; until she finds a way to escape reality altogether.

Another poet, she discovers, lived in Helensburgh once. Wystan H. Auden, brilliant and awkward at 24, with his first book of poetry published, should be embarking on success and society in London. Instead, in 1930, fleeing a broken engagement, he takes a teaching post at Larchfield School for boys where he is mocked for his Englishness and suspected – rightly – of homosexuality. Yet in this repressed limbo Wystan will fall in love for the first time, even as he fights his deepest fears.

The need for human connection compels these two vulnerable outsiders to find each other and make a reality of their own that will save them both. Echoing the depths of Possession, the elegance of The Stranger’s Child and the ingenuity of Longbourn, Larchfield is a beautiful and haunting novel about heroism – the unusual bravery that allows unusual people to go on living; to transcend banality and suffering with the power of their imagination.

Genre: Fiction & Related Items / Modern & Contemporary Fiction (post C 1945)

On Sale: 23rd March 2017

Price: £14.99

ISBN-13: 9781786481924

Reviews

Larchfield is that rarest of rare first novels - a book that actually achieves its great ambition. I found it so immensely readable; it's brainy, verbally acute and knowing, with an ingenious literary historical premise that it impressively (and artfully) carries off right in front of your eyes. It's work of considerable talent
Richard Ford
This is a mysterious, wondrous, captivating book
Louis de Bernieres
A story beautifully and passionately rendered
Margie Orford
Wonderful characters and set pieces
Di Speirs
The sense of danger hanging over the characters kept me reading until past midnight
Marina Lewycka
A deft and moving portrayal of isolation
Juliet Mushens
Larchfield is beautifully eloquent about that quotidian kind of courage that so often goes overlooked: that fortitude that allows us to engage compassion through our loneliness, and to construct a future in which our truest selves might fit.
Jim Shepard
Brava brava! Most satisfying thing I've read this year. Beautiful.
Brian Chikwava
A fine novel of rich mysteries. What an original way to explore the assembling or collapse of identity; the reader has a powerful sense of a kind of vortex into which the two main characters are drawn - with a masterly stroke of unexpected impossibility standing in for a moment of mental collapse. I was riveted.
John Fuller
The one to watch, according to
Sunday Times, Sun, Red, Heat, The Lady, Scotsman, Foyles
This lyrical novel about the poet WH Auden and a young mother is captivating
Heat
A meeting of minds across time, between a modern-day woman poet and a young WH Auden, illustrates the redemptive power of the poetic imagination
The Lady
An atmospheric, haunting time-slip novel about a new mother struggling to survive in a claustrophobic town where poet WH Auden lived
Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Times, S Magazine
So wise, tender, and immaculately written. It's full of such delicate poetry yet I devoured it like a thriller. A beautiful, life-affirming read.
Emylia Hall
I was absorbed by this rich and atmospheric novel with its brooding sense of isolation, its poetic language and its portrait of a mental breakdown
Fanny Blake
A beautiful debut novel about a woman's struggle with isolation and sanity woven into the story of the poet W. H. Auden. It's about bravery, loneliness and survival and was inspired by the author's own plight when she moved to Helensburgh in Scotland and found a connection with Auden that was to change her life
Foyles
Striking . . . Clark, a TS Eliot Prize-Shortlisted poet, writes beautifully
Bookseller
Larchfield is a beautiful debut about a woman's struggle with isolation and sanity woven with the story of poet W. H. Auden, which signals Polly Clark as an author to watch
i Paper
A haunting read, this novel charts the bravery that allows unusual people to transcend banality and suffering with the power of their imagination
Good Housekeeping
Bringing a long dead poet to brilliant life . . . It makes for a powerful and moving read . . . Clark hits emotional beats with her characters that often take the reader by surprise with their sheer power . . . Moving, powerful and immensely readable, Larchfield is a book of isolation, growth, love and friendship. Hugely recommended and fantastically written; author Polly Clark is a huge talent and one I'll be keen to watch out for in the future
Luke Marlowe, Bookbag
Stunning . . . I was lost in this moving and gripping study of isolation
Fanny Blake, Woman and Home
A beautifully written debut about outsiders, creativity and motherhood
Sarra Manning, Red
A mesmerising time-slip tale . . . a beautiful, poetic story
Nina Pottell, Prima
Clark has a wonderful eye for detail and a light comic touch . . . A funny, poised, and affecting meditation on the healing power of poetry
Daisy Dunn, The Times
Magical and transcendent . . . I suspect that few debuts in 2017 will match the elegance of Larchfield. This is a beautiful novel: passionate, lyrical and surprising. I will remember Larchfield for a long time.
John Boyne, Irish Times
An impeccably told story of isolation and creativity, it's as involving as a thriller.
Hepzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday
This quietly beautiful and hugely atmospheric novel is as rich as it is compelling
Heat
One of those wonderfully rare novels that catches hold of you and reels you effortlessly in from the moment you begin turning its pages . . . A novel about loneliness and finding the strength to be yourself, as well as the power of imagination. In succumbing to this compulsive book, I found myself reminded of that power . . . Its lyricism and imaginative prowess bring to life the inner lives of two poets separated by time
Edwina Boyd-Gibbins, Stylist
That Polly Clark is a poet is never in doubt throughout this imaginative novel, written with poetic force . . . This is a beautifully constructed novel with a wealth of detail and characterisation. Moving and wonderful.
Daily Express
A book one doesn't want to put down
Daily Mail
A magnificent book - haunting and beautifully written
Alexander McCall Smith, Good Housekeeping
Congratulations on Larchfield! Helpful imaginary Auden, beset wife, evil upstairsers: gripping turf wars of the mind!
Margaret Atwood
What a wonderfully satisfying and gratifying book it is: vivid, moving, sympathetic, beautifully shaped, convincingly inventive, and tactful in its approach to painful depths. I enjoyed it enormously.
Edward Mendelson
For anyone who knows what it feels like to move to a new place and feel lonely, or feel like an outsider, this book will speak to you
Rachel Revesz, Independent
Elegant . . . Clark has written a measured and graceful novel; this is particularly true of the way she handles Dora's gradual unravelling.
Natasha Tripney, Observer
I have no doubt that the best novel that I have read in the past year was Polly Clark's debut Larchfield. Extraordinarily inventive . . . it is moving, haunting, searingly memorable and a very significant artistic achievement
Michael Russell, MSP