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Clay [Kindle Edition]

Melissa Harrison
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Product Description


A gently-evoked urban tragedy - and the most powerful and original debut novel I've read for years (A N Wilson, Readers Digest)

The way Harrison weaves the threads of her story together has echoes of John Lancaster's much-praised recent novel Capital ... Harrison has a gift too for exploring human bonds ... It is in the descriptive passages that Harrison's lyrical style shines brightest ... Clay is an assured debut novel, that reads like the work of a much more experienced author. Expect great things of Harrison (Evening Standard)

It's no surprise to learn that Melissa Harrison, the award-winning author of this thoughtful first novel, is also a photographer. Her strong visual sense is reflected in the sharply focused descriptions of the changing seasons which form the backdrop to a story of bonds created across national and generational divides ... An insightful study of common humanity and unintended inhumanity (Daily Mail)

Melissa Harrison draws on the urban pastoral style of writers such as Robert Macfarlane ... Her season-by-season chronicle of human deeds against the changing backdrop of plant and animal life conjures up the Shepherd's Calendars of poets such as Spenser and Clare, and a bucolic tradition of rural verse that stretches back into antiquity ... What never falters is the fierce and tender grace of her natural descriptions . As a nature-writer, Harrison has already, gloriously, blossomed; as a story-teller, she is still in bud. But every reader who cherishes even the scruffiest patch of urban greenery should rejoice in the 'beloved territory' she digs up in Clay (Boyd Tonkin, Independent)

There is a pleasing lack of overt symbolism ... In its loving yet unsentimental depictions of nature, the book is a great success. This is a story that unites people with their surroundings (Times Literary Supplement)

Deeply felt ... Reminiscent, at times, of Rose Tremain's The Road Home, this debut has also been praised by nature writer Robert Macfarlane, and Harrison writes beautifully of the changing seasons. Set against their gentle progress, Harrison's heartbreaking denouement, while predictable, is by contrast all the more shattering (The Lady)

Instantly beautiful in its calm and wise tone (Robert Macfarlane)

Harrison gives lovely expression to her vision of an ecosystem thrumming away beneath the grime of city life (Guardian)

Striking debut novel (Independent)

Clay addresses vital concerns about class and society in gorgeously precise prose . A novel like this only works when the author persuades you they can get into the heads of radically different characters with equal success - a challenge Harrison more than meets (Metro)

Combining fiction with nature writing, it's peppered with keenly observed descriptions (Observer)

At the heart of Clay is a hymn to attentiveness, both to the natural world and to those we share it with. Stepping out after finishing this book, you may find yourself looking at your own streets with a little more care (Financial Times)

Harrison's serene and measured style of writing does nothing to detract from the passion she has for her subject. This is a haunting, finely written story which will linger in the mind (Red)

The wonderful power of her looking builds a quiet, cumulative poetry. An impressive debut (Mark Cocker, author of Crow Country)

Melissa Harrison's lyrical, precise and beguiling debut novel manages a huge feat of scale, imbuing the absolutely ordinary and marginal with the long memory of place. It's full of intricate human drama, but aches with something bigger and older. It has its own weather (Paul Farley, author of The Ice Age)

Heartfelt, elegiac . lovingly observed (The Sunday Times)

This lovely novel reinforces how essential green spaces are to all of our lives (BBC Countryfile)

This month's best books ... Harrison's keenly observed depictions of the common's wildness provide a vivid setting for the emotional struggles of her characters (Marie Claire)

Country comes to town with lyrical, visceral power ... She evokes with rhapsodic delight the animal and plant life that still flourishes amid the concrete and Tarmac (Independent)

Among the 2013 debuts, I was taken with Melissa Harrison's Clay. Most reviewers seem to have mistaken it for realism, whereas Harrison, a nature writer if ever there was one, is reaching after something else - a communal style (reminiscent of that of Nan Shepherd a century ago) with a formal determination to meet shared needs. It's beautifully written and doesn't need compromise (Ali Smith, New Statesman Books of the Year)

Book Description

An intimate and captivating portrait of four people struggling with the concrete confines of city life by first-time novelist Melissa Harrison

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 609 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 140882602X
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (3 Jan 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0093K1RP0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #41,920 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Melissa Harrison was born in 1975, the youngest child in a family of six. She was state educated, attending creative writing workshops arranged by the LEA in the summer holidays, before going on to study English Literature at Oxford.

After graduation she worked in non-fiction publishing for several years before moving into magazines, first as an editor and then on a freelance basis, with clients including Vogue, Time Out, Stuff, Mixmag and the Guardian.

In 2008, while compiling a particularly fascinating news story about hi-fi cables, Melissa took the totally unconnected decision to begin spending more time writing. She won the John Muir Trust's Award for Wild Writing in 2010, and her first novel, Clay, was published by Bloomsbury in January 2013. It was chosen as an Amazon Rising Star for 2013, won the Portsmouth First Fiction award and was named by Ali Smith as one of her books of the year.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stylish and engaging novel 6 Jan 2013
Mostly set in a small scrubby park in an unnamed British city, Clay is the gentle interweaving of the stories of four main characters: the barely parented nine-year-old TC, Polish immigrant Jozef, an over-protected child called Daisy, and Daisy's widowed grandmother Sophia. What the quartet have in common is the park - the sort of insignificant open space that is easily overlooked or used as a mere shortcut. However, it provides some sort of haven for the four principles, albeit in very different ways, and by the accident of their proximity their lives gradually begin to intertwine (much like the weeds in the park, indeed).

But this is not just a novel about human relationships. Clay takes the reader through a year in the life of the park and affords a fascinating insight into the wildlife that abounds even in this apparently unpromising setting. Harrison's attention to detail with regards to the park's surprising array of flora and fauna is magnificent, yet her deft handling and poetic touch ensure that at no point do neon lights flash up the words `Attention! Attention! You are now being educated' - a sight unhappily seen in too many modern novels (and, let's face it, quite a lot of old ones too).

This is Melissa Harrison's first novel, though it reads like the work of someone who's an old hand at the game, as evidenced by the fact that many of the impressions and emotions contained in it have stayed with me, and I'm a reader who is wont to finish a novel and then forget it almost instantly (some might say that's not always a bad thing too). I thoroughly enjoyed this and would very much recommend it. Pop into a local bookshop and pick yourself up a copy - I'd be extremely surprised if you ever look at a local park in quite the same way again.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful 7 Jan 2013
This is a beautiful book, which tugs powerfully in its descriptions of the prosaic and poetic losses and gains in human relationships, the city, and the natural world that turns with it all. Harrison weaves together a sense of ancient wisdom, of seasons and nature, with a worldly view of modern city life. Amazingly she manages this through and alongside the story of four interlinked characters. I cannot write/think about the characters without feeling a lump in my throat (since finishing the book I miss young TC as if I knew him - read it, you'll see what I mean): and yet this is not a tearjerker in any crass sense. The sensitivity in Harrison's writing about childhood is astounding, and the relationships between the main characters are so astutely nuanced.

I am jealous of those who haven't yet read this novel, who have the pleasure of reading it yet to come.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book 21 Jan 2013
This is a wonderful book. The lives of four very different Londoners, all lonely in their own way, briefly come together during a year in the life of a little patch of forgotten urban greenery. Anyone who cares about the importance of place, and of roots, or who minds about our 21st century detachment from the natural world, should read it. In my case it's Jozef, who - despite being miles and many years from his family farm in Poland, is able to find whatever it was he was missing in that piece of scrubland in the biggest city in western europe - most stayed with me when I finished the book. Ultimately, hopeful?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical 23 Feb 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Clay is a lyrical novel, quietly getting under your skin. You'll find yourself lost in TC's world, tuned to the rhythms of nature in the city. And TC will get under your skin too. He's the best kind of boy - inquisitive and thoughtful and bursting with imagination. But he's also a boy at risk, and the forces of society that must save him, are also blunt and oblique. This is a fantastic debut novel, and this author is one to watch.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book 19 Feb 2013
By pantone
I was given Clay to read by a friend who liked it, and it's my favourite book so far this year. A lovely book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lyrical gem 13 Feb 2013
By Jacqmar
This is a beautifully written and engaging book. I loved the focus on nature and the changing seasons. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 4 Feb 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A brilliantly perceived and beautifully written debut novel about how nature and humans can interact in a modern post-industrial city.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clay 20 Jun 2014
By Linda
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book & thought the description of the plants & environment added to it rather than distracted. The characters were believable and I cared about what they were up to. I would have liked to have read on to discover what happened next to TC & Josef, hence the four star rating.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting novel. Delicate and carefully written. Observation of ...
Interesting novel. Delicate and carefully written. Observation of the natural world is a major character and narrational impetus in the novel.
Published 10 days ago by Yarnthyme
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Great!
While reading it i sort of felt i was joining along the charactors.It had heart and joyfullness,and a vocabluary that made it fun to read. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dim
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A wonderful story with memorable characters and vivid descriptions of our everyday relationship with nature.
Published 2 months ago by J. Guest
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and evocative
This lady is as good a writer on and describer of nature-based themes of anyone I have ever read. The way she evokes the simple flora and fauna to be found in an urban park is a... Read more
Published 2 months ago by christuart
5.0 out of 5 stars Where the wild things are
Through the intersecting lives of a group of city dwellers - and the green spaces where their paths cross - Harrison paints a vivid portrait of loneliness in nature-starved urban... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Catherine
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read!
An unusual book with a real twist near the end. Makes you appreciate the childhood you had and how hard it is for others.
Published 8 months ago by Diane Floyd
3.0 out of 5 stars Opens your eyes to the life of city parks
Indeed the park is the main protagonist here with all its natural life observed and wondered at by the human characters. Read more
Published 11 months ago by ck1
5.0 out of 5 stars A heartening read for a jaded city dweller
I loved Clay from the very first word. It's a ruminative, gentle read that uses nature as an anchor for all that happens to the characters in the story. Read more
Published 12 months ago by KJF
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice little story
This book was a nice little story. Nothing too in depth, well written and very descriptive. Sometimes too much description on the surrounding nature and wildlife in my opinion. Read more
Published 16 months ago by QueenB
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking novel
Change, time, loneliness and intergenerational relationships shape this story of outsiders in a city. It is easy to be an outsider simply by being alone. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Kate F. Measham
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