Friday, 5 July 2013

Winter Damage

Ennor’s father has never been the same since foot and mouth disease took away his prized Simmental cattle. Left with a few Friesians and living in a caravan, he is now sick and struggling to pay the bills. Ennor spends her time looking after him, what is left of their farm and her autistic little brother Trip. When the school informs her that social services are going to put Trip into an institution, she knows the only person that can help is her estranged mother. Leaving Trip with her only friend Butch, she sets off across the snow laden moors in search of her mother.

As the story starts, Ennor’s life could easily be that of any family hit by hard times today. But you slowly start to discover that this is not today’s Britain. The country has fallen apart, due to the bad decisions of the government. Unemployment is rife. The foot and mouth outbreak left farms crippled when otherwise they might have been able to weather the economic crisis. Society is starting to break up. This bleak vision of the not too distant future isn’t at all unrealistic. In fact, some analysts have predicted this will happen if we continue on our current path. The last foot and mouth crisis wiped out so many farms and livelihoods, if it happened again now, many areas would be completely devastated on top of closures and redundancies.

The blizzard wind slapped and pushed from all angles and bit at Ennor’s mouth with barbed kisses.

As Ennor sets out across the moors, she struggles against the hostile winter conditions. It is no easy journey and the prose in wonderfully evocative of the emptiness and fierceness of the wilderness. Her greatest enemies are the cold and hunger. Yes, she must be wary of people who must now only think of themselves, but the danger always feels like it is coming from the elements.

Out of the blizzard comes a tale of friendship forged through circumstance. I was wary of Sonny at first, a girl from a gyspy camp who suspiciously befriends Ennor, wanting her to stay on for the winter solstice festivities. It’s hard to remember both these girls are just fourteen, forced to grow up fast in a world which is no longer kind to children. Is there even space left for kindness amongst friends and family?

There was a serious air about them that was grownup and silent, the storms had brought the moor to a white-wallpapered stop. They walked in one another’s footsteps and called out their names when they wandered left or right. Every breath taken was painful and brittle in the chest.

I won’t say the book is without hope though. The ending left me full of thoughts to ponder and somewhere along the way, I got attached to these odd children and their clipped manner of speech.

Winter Damage is published by Bloomsbury and will be available on 1st August 2013 in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

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