This is as powerful first novel as you could hope for. Set in the 1930s, the novel charts the disintegration of a farming community in the Lake District, northern England. Close-knit, and largely unchanged for generations, the village is ripped apart by the incursion of the Manchester Water Board who appropriate the valley in order that they can flood it to create a reservoir. The villagers are forced to move out, abandoning their homes and their way of life. Haweswater vividly brings to life the a clash of an old, agricultural way of life with the inevitable encroachment of modernity and industrialistaion.
If the backdrop is the scenery of lakes, valleys and mountains, at the foreground is the Lightburn family, mother and father, son and daughter. Janet Lightburn, a headstrong young woman who reaches out beyond the confines of the valley, falls in love with the natural enemy, the architect of the reservoir project. Despite themselves the love grows, secretly at first, and with tragic consequences. All the while, as we become more involved with the characters and the drowning of the past, the valley is being flooded, inch by creeping inch, creating an uncanny and unsettling sense of impending doom.
The writing is majestic and bewitching, laced with poetry while never spilling into melodrama or pretention. You'll love it!