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Matthew David Scott

The Ground Remembers

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  • £7.99

A dark, suburban myth about love, jealousy, shame and the things we cannot throw away. When Helen Murray disappeared on her eighteenth birthday ten years ago, most on the Avenue blamed Edwin and Phillip. Edwin stayed and numbed himself. Phillip ran as far as he could.

Scott's success in portraying the ordinary lives of the young and the realities of the world in which they are growing up in his first novel, Playing Mercy is developed in a much less conventional form here. The Ground Remembers centres on the experiences of three young people – Helen, Edwin and Phillip – who grew up on the Avenue in the suburbs of a provincial town and whose love and loyalties are inextricably intertwined. On one level the picture is of fairly normal childhood, family and adolescent relationships, but these are told as memories. The action of the novel is focused on a day and night, ten years after Helen disappeared, when the two boys were divided, their lives 'de-railed' and Phillip left the Avenue. Now Edwin is coming to find him and we follow their paths as they draw together.

Interspersed with this are scraps of simultaneous lives of others on the Avenue. These and the characters Edwin and Phillip encounter are studies in loneliness and disappointment, but richly created in their dark landscape. Two main theatres of action are pubs: 'The Hog' (near the Avenue) and 'The Dragon' (Phillip's local) and these sequences along with their sense of lonely yet poignantly connected urban lives reminded me strongly of Jim Cartwright's play Road.

The exceptional feature, which takes this novel into another genre, is Helen's status as storyteller. Her dark, haunting stories surface through the boys' memories and we gradually realise that something mysterious, even magical is going on ...  the book has great momentum, powerful and beautiful writing and a rich cast of sensitively drawn characters.

Caroline Clark

 This review has been taken from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.