Riverflow by Alison Layland Honno Press June 20th 2019
After a beloved family member is drowned in a devastating flood, Bede and Elin Sherwell want nothing more than to be left in peace to pursue their off-grid life. But when the very real prospect of fracking hits their village, they are drawn in to the frontline protests. During a spring of relentless rain, a series of mysterious threats and suspicious accidents put friendships on the line and the Sherwells’ marriage under unbearable tension. Is there a connection with their uncle’s death? As the river rises under torrential rain, pressure mounts, Bede’s sense of self begins to crumble and Elin is no longer sure who to believe or what to believe in.
Layland perfectly matched the ebb and flow of the river to the trials and tribulations of a couple for whom life had been one of a tranquil ideal, of sustainability.
The descriptions of a landscape that fed and watered Bede and Ade were wonderfully described, it’s beauty and, indeed it’s dangers vivid and real. Yet life is not just about the landscape in which we inhabit, it’s also about those who live around us, who support us or who rail against us.
The ideal of fracking, the acquisition of land for shooting, the influx of new people were catalysts for events that tested Bede and Elin. I loved how Layland made them question their beliefs, their ethics, to think how far they would go to protect what they held dear.
You would have thought it would have brought them closer together, but it only seemed to highlight differences, a marriage that seemed to be heading in opposing directions.
Silvan, the new game keeper was a man who appeared well meaning, but you knew there was something not right, yet you couldn’t quite work out what. His infiltration into Bede and Elin’s life’s made you question his intentions, who he was and whose side he was actually on.
Elin, the realist, the campaigner, the activist, was a woman you could admire, for her resilience and honesty.
Bede, so practically intelligent, yet haunted by his upbringing, grief stricken by his uncles death was the character who frustrated, whose anguish and torment you wish you could ease. It was Laylands ability to get right to the heart of that torment and anguish that impressed, her narrative that perfectly captured his innermost thoughts.
You wanted Bede and Elin to emerge intact, to learn to accept one another’s differences, to compromise.
As in all novels life was never what it seemed, as Layland scratched the surface to reveal a community at loggerheads. The themes she raised of Fracking, of the destruction we wreck on our landscape never seemed forced, she provided balance, let you form your own opinions.
Riverflow was one of those novels that provoked thought, that raised important environmental questions but it was also about the fragility of relationships, of the consequences of our own ideals and vision for the world we live in.
It was a novel that I found enthralling and I can only congratulate Layland for writing such a beautifully evocative novel.
I would like to thank Honno Press for a copy of Riverflow to read and review and to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blogtours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Alison Layland is a writer and translator. Raised in Newark and Bradford, she now lives on the Wales/Shropshire border. She studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Cambridge University and translates from German, French and Welsh into English. Her published translations include a number of bestselling novels.