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Clay Hardcover – 19 Feb 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (19 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608199789
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608199785
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,504,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Melissa Harrison's first novel, Clay, was published by Bloomsbury in January 2013. It was chosen as an Amazon Rising Star, won the Portsmouth First Fiction award and was named by Ali Smith in the New Statesman as one of her books of the year.

Melissa's second novel, At Hawthorn Time, is out now, published by Bloomsbury; it has been described by multi-award-winning author Helen Macdonald as "a profoundly unsentimental yet deeply compassionate meditation on searching for myth and meaning, on our need to belong, and the place of history in the history of place". It was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award.

A freelance writer, occasional photographer and reviewer, Melissa won the John Muir Trust's Award for Wild Writing in 2010. She writes for The Times' weekly 'Nature Notebook' column and delivered one of the inaugural Coleridge Lectures for Bristol Festival of Ideas 2015.

Product Description

Review

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

Clay moves to rhythms that we associate less with fiction than with the close-descriptive style of nature writers such as Robert Macfarlane ... At the heart of Clay is a hymn to attentiveness, both to the natural world and to those we share it with (Financial Times)

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

Heartfelt, elegaic ... Lovingly observed (Sunday Times)

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

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

Harrison gives lovely expression to her vision of an ecosystem thrumming away beneath the grime of city life (Guardian) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

An intimate and captivating portrait of four people struggling with the concrete confines of city life by first-time novelist Melissa Harrison --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Paperback
`Instantly beautiful,' says the blurb on the cover. Well, the writing is mostly good, certainly, though I'm not sure what we're supposed to make of that particular line.
The story, about three disparate characters who frequent a small city park and have their own ways of enjoying the natural environment, keeps promising some great drama as their lives interact, but in the end this promise is not kept, and we have instead a nice little story about a boy from a broken home, a Polish immigrant and a widow who has been partially rejected by her daughter.
As well as enjoying the plants and wildlife of the park, they all suffer from a sense of loneliness and not quite `fitting in' to their respective lives. It makes for a pleasant and intelligent read, but what could have been real page-turner fizzles out halfway through, and we must make do with a minor study of modern British society. Still worth reading though.
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Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written and engaging book. I loved the focus on nature and the changing seasons. Highly recommended.
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