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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very impressive debut
Sam Marsdyke, the anti-hero of God's Own Country, is a fascinating character - very funny and engaging at times but also sadistic and menacing. In fact, the whole book has a air of menace hanging over it, from the gothic moorland setting to the way Sam stalks his prey, both animal and human, as he spends his days roaming the bleak North Yorkshire countryside...
Published on 22 April 2009 by Denise4891

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good first novel
A interesting study of a tortured mind. The main character generates, by turns, sympathy and revulsion. The setting, on the North York Moors, is part of the story - a character in its own right, but to me, who lives there, it is not very well evoked. And the attempt to portray the dialect/accent is very odd. I didn't recognise the idiomatics at all.

I'm glad I...
Published on 1 July 2011 by David Hoggard


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and utterly compelling, 22 Dec 2012
By 
This review is from: God's Own Country (Paperback)
This is an original, beautifully written and utterly compelling novel.The story is told first person by Sam Marsdyke, a distinctly odd and lonely 19-year-old living in rural north Yorkshire with his farming parents. Sam's heavy dialect feels thoroughly authentic, even though some of the words, as Raisin admitted on Bookclub, are made up. I say, who cares? When 'the girl' gazes across the moors with a 'look of yonderment', we know exactly what that means; and what better word for the clutter of ornamental bits and bobs adorning the walls of the village pub than `trunklements'?

The beauty of the area is skilfully evoked. The descriptions of the weather, the wildlife and the rolling moorland are remarkably vivid, and the wild landscape is as present and significant here as it was in Wuthering Heights. Sam spends his free time tramping the moors with his beloved dog, Sal, and initially, the way he torments the 'towns' - ramblers for whom he has utter contempt - by throwing a small stone at them from behind a wall, seems little more than mischievous, but soon, things take a much darker turn.

Sam's internal monologue provides little snippets of information about his past, which, when we put them together, paint a disturbing picture. We learn early on that he was kicked out of school because of an assault on another pupil, and that his mother cried a lot at the time and still needs reassurance that she shouldn't blame herself, rather that he 'must've come out backward'. Sam imagines that when people look at him, they see the word 'rapist' on his forehead, and he's convinced that everyone hates or is afraid of him. But he's comfortable with animals and often holds imaginary conversations with them, as well as with the sun and moon, and even with everyday objects. He takes a liking to the new neighbours' 15-year-old daughter, but he can't think what to say to her. 'Talk to her, you doylem,' her hair slide tells him. 'She'll bugger off if you don't'.

At first, he considers her feelings; when she wants to watch the lambing, he's conscious of how she might be affected by a stillbirth and he guesses she'd be upset if she knew that the dead lamb would normally be skinned, so he buries it instead. But as he becomes more obsessed with 'the girl' as he refers to her, it becomes clear that this can't end well.

Although Sam is in many ways a frightening character - sinister, disturbed and disturbing, and clearly capable of cruel and violent behaviour - I found myself feeling increasingly sorry for him as the novel progressed. He presents his upbringing as harsh and his father as something of a brute, but we must bear in mind that Sam is a far from reliable narrator, and though we see that his father is certainly gruff, we note that he still uses the mug that Sam bought him when he was little. But whether or not Sam misreads the people around him, what is certain is that he is unable to connect with them and is desperately lonely.

In the final scenes, where, without giving too much away, the extent of Sam`s, shall we say, 'antisocial' tendencies are revealed, I still felt sorry for him, because apart from anything else, he seemed completely oblivious to the distress he was causing, and almost bewildered by how things turned out.

Sam is a complex and fascinating character; he does bad things, but he got so under my skin that I've found my thoughts returning to him and his world again and again since I finished the novel. God's Own Country is occasionally funny, but mostly it's dark and disturbing; it's also tragic and with a sort of rough, weathered beauty. This is a novel that I'm pretty sure I'll read a second time.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I looked like I'd been dragged arse-uppards through a badger sett..., 15 May 2010
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God's Own Country (Hardcover)
Sam Marsdyke has no truckle with ramblers and townies who buy up old farmhouses and people the North York Moors with outsiders. His father keeps sheep and Sam knows more about the landscape he inhabits than any surveyor scranning the land for somewhere to stick a housing estate. At school they called him Lankenstein, until he was expelled for an incident with a girl. Thin as a rail, not above lobbing rocks at stray ramblers, and rumoured to have shot at a neighbour's cat, he should be the reader's worst nightmare. But there is another side to Sam. He's good with the sheep, keeping their feet cleaned and looking after lambs. He's good with the pups of the farm's collie too. It's the ability to socialise with people that Sam seems to lack, and more, random elements of empathy are missing from his make-up. When a new family with a teenaged daughter move into the farmhouse down the hill, trouble seems inevitable.

The book is written in Sam's voice, a startling and funny voice with its marvellously authentic North Yorkshire vernacular. Sam may not have made his mark at school, but he is not lacking in wit and has imagination and insight into events. He doesn't seem much different to any teenager with the usual desires and frustrations. But the girl in the farmhouse always remains `the girl' to him. She never has a name. She does not understand, it is clear, that Sam's feelings are truncated, off-kilter - in crucial areas of ordinary interaction his inadequacies are extreme. Though the trouble that threatens does occur, it is not what it seems. Sam often seems as much a victim as his victim.

Darkly comic, ultimately tragic, this is a moving and terrifically compulsive read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great sense of place and character, 23 Jun 2009
By 
A. Davies (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God's Own Country (Paperback)
I bought this book because of the beautiful cover illustration (yes, I am that shallow), but I thought it was a great read. I loved the whole unreliable narrator thing that was going on, and that Sam's actions seemed so reasonable from his perspective. Unlike one of the other reviewer's, I didn't think Sam was autistic, it is no Mark Haddon!

I did start to flag towards the end as I could see where it was going, and I can imagine that the stream of consciousness style with all the vernacular might get a bit wearing if you are not keen on that sort of thing. There were certain similarities with the wasp factory, but it was none the worse for that, and if dark teens are your thing then give it a try, if only for the beautiful woodcut image on the front cover
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative Moors, 23 Mar 2009
By 
M. A. Smith "smartysmiffy" (Ilford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God's Own Country (Paperback)
So, it appears from the reviews here, that this book is very much like Marmite - you either love it or hate it. Unlike Marmite, I loved this book.

I better state now, potential spoilers alert - I don't do this intentionally, and I may not do so at all, but you have been warned - it depends how much you know about the book already!

Much has been written about 'the unreliable narrator' and in this book that is most definitely what you get. Written as Sam Marsdyke is looking back on events, it is not until the end of the book you realise how unreliable he is. You also start to think how could I have felt sympathy for this person? Should I have felt sympathy for this person?

I loved the evocation of the Yorkshire Moors in this book - sparse language is as effective as paragraphs of description. The use of Sam's vocabulary is also effective as you get inside his head (as much as you can anyway!). There are many stand out scenes in this book, but a highlight for me that demonstrates how the book is superbly written and makes you have to re-read, or re-think what has just happened is a scene in a local pub where ramblers sit happily playing board games. I shall say no more.

Highly recommended.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A rather monotonous plodding tale rescued by some humourous interludes, 7 July 2009
By 
John M "John M" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God's Own Country (Paperback)
I see that book has acquired some positive reviews although I'm afraid I rather struggled with it. It is the story of Sam Marsdyke, a rather cranky and delusional youth in his late teens, the son of a sheep farmer on the Yorkshire Moors. It is written as a monologue, and because of his rather delusional mental state he is an unreliable narrator, as he recounts his past troubles involving a young girl at school and becomes infatuated with another girl who moves into a farm nearby with her family. Not much happens for a great deal of the book, although if you're interested in learning about the mechanics of sheep farming related in Yorkshire dialect this might appeal to you. It had its comic moments which did rescue it a little, but the monologue failed to engage or interest me to any great extent. It is described as being original, but to me echoed very heavily of 'The wasp factory' or even 'The Collector' which are in my opinion much better written and more entertaining works.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lankenstein, 16 May 2008
By 
Mr. B. Eden - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God's Own Country (Hardcover)
I read this in the country in front of a crackling fire while the wind howled and the rain lashed the windows, I was drawn in straight away. Sam Marsdyke is a wonderful creation, darkly scanning from the Yorkshire Moors. My only criticism of this novel is that it was a tad light and playful, where it should have been horrifying and blunt.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable in a good way, 31 July 2009
This review is from: God's Own Country (Paperback)
Ok, the title of the review is a little flippant but that really sums this book up. As some of the reviews have stated, it's not clear why the protagonist in the story behaves they way he does but to me this added to the feeling of the book.
It explores that dark side of the outsider where their actions are normal to them in their world and the world around them does not wish to see their actions.
Events carry on throughout the book and fact their is no descent in to madness, no tipping point, just the events makes it all that more unconfortable to read. It is a cracker of a book though, the first person perspective is handled subtly which is never an easy task. The feeling of the surrounding town and people and their perspective is presented through this first person narrative giving us the main characters opinions but a sense of how he is perceived too.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good holiday read, 18 Sep 2008
By 
Gavs Dad (Cambridge UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: God's Own Country (Hardcover)
Good holiday read that builds to the end .(As long as you're not on the Yorkshire moors!)
Gothic country humour in the same vein as The Wasp Factory
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit rubbish, really, 12 Jan 2012
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God's Own Country (Paperback)
Oh dear, God's Own Country promises so much but delivers so little. It has won so many awards and plaudits it even needs a separate bellyband to list them all. People have compared Ross Raisin to many great writers; compared his debut novel with so many classics. But for this reader, it was just a poor man's Butcher Boy.

Sam Marsdyke is a 19 year old farmer. He was excluded from school for having been caught in a compromising situation with a female pupil and since then he has helped his father run their farm on the Yorkshire Moors. Sam narrates the style in an idiosynctraic way. There is heavy use of dialect and Ross Raisin cites a dictionary of Yorkshire dialect at the end so we must presume the words are genuine. But they become repetitive and soon stop sounding authentic. They just don't hang together well.

Sam seems variously to have above average intelligence and to be retarded. He happily recounts local legends; understands farming process and nature in a way that goes beyond memorising facts. He feels the countryside. He also makes frequent references to other people's emotions, so he's not autistic. Yet at other times he will play with, for example, a plastic Dracula, holding him over a cliff so he can see below.

For at least the first half of the book, the narrative is a series of episodic chapters. Each chapter has one thing happening and none seems to follow on from another - there's no character or plot development, just random events. Then, half way through, things change and the remainder of the book becomes a continuous story. Sadly, not a very plausible one - one which depends on people changing their motivation and attitude half way along. If you know the ending and you know the start, you'd say you can't get there from here.

Some readers may feel that there is a legitimate use of an unreliable narrator (yawn, not again!) but Sam doesn't really seem to be that unreliable. True unreliability is done through omission or through viewing events and people through a particular lens. But for it to work, there needs to be consistency. In this case, we might imagine that Sam has given a very false impression of his relationship with key characters - particularly the neighbour's girl (Josephine, I think she was called). But the only way later events could have occurred would be if Sam's earlier narration were faithful. But if his earlier narration were faithful, then later events couldn't have happened. It all chases itself round in a circle.

God's Own Country was never compelling. After the first 20 pages, every page became more of an effort. By the end, it was all so boring, implausible and riddles with dialectic clichés. It wasn't sinister; it wasn't chilling. Sam did not make a convincing maniac. It was a bit rubbish, really.
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0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Really Dire, 8 Mar 2013
By 
Diana Foster (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God's Own Country (Paperback)
What an absoluteley dire piece of writing this is. I paid 6.99 to download it to Kindle. I can't believe this novel even found a literary agent let alone a publisher. And all the plaudits heaped upon it! Before I read this I listened to a 30 minute Podacast of 'The Book Show' on BBC Radio 4 where young Ross Raisin discusses the book with James Naughtie and an audience of readers. They behaved like the book is some sort of minor masterpiece. My God, it certainly is not.

Do lit agents and publishers have some sort of idea of what is good for us?
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God's Own Country
God's Own Country by Ross Raisin (Paperback - 5 Feb 2009)
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