Author(s): Polly Clark
'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.
A fictionalised depiction of the poet WH Auden running alongside a story about a modern day poet called Dora, Clark's novel makes you care deeply about these characters, real or not. Clark's background in poetry is evident by her beautiful choices of words and turns of phrase. A lovely read.
Elisa, Book Grocer
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 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 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 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
Polly Clark was born in Toronto and lives in Helensburgh on Scotland's west coast, a few streets away from where W.H. Auden wrote 'The Orators'. Auden's struggle as he conceived this electrifying and genre-busting work was an inspiration for her debut novel Larchfield. As Literature Programmer for Cove Park she brings writers from all over the world to take part in Scotland's International Artist Residency. Her three poetry collections have between them won the Eric Gregory Award, been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and twice been selected as one of the Poetry Book Society's books of the year.