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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stylish and engaging novel
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...
Published on 6 Jan. 2013 by Natureboy

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A story about loneliness
`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...
Published 7 months ago by Phil O'Sofa


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stylish and engaging novel, 6 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Clay (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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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 7 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Clay (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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book, 21 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Clay (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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical, 23 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Clay (Hardcover)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A story about loneliness, 3 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Clay (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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book, 19 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Clay (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 4 Feb. 2013
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Mr P Watts (Sutton, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Clay (Hardcover)
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lyrical gem, 13 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Clay (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exquisitely paced, 6 April 2013
This review is from: Clay (Hardcover)
This is a story that grows - both on the reader and literally. I at first wondered at the, what seemed excessive, description of the natural world, but quickly came to realise that nature is the hero of the story, the birds and creatures that inhabit London are the foreground, not the backdrop. I loved that the stoicism of nature is as important as frenetic humanity. The tale of the lonely boy who meets an equally isolated Pole is a tender one of finding unity and companionship in loneliness. It is one that I followed with bated breath, willing the ending to be a positive one. And it is, and it isn't... Beautifully written, tenderly executed and magically paced.
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4.0 out of 5 stars No happy ending, 12 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Clay (Paperback)
I had high hopes of this well written book about three lonely people (two adults and one child), all living close to a very ordinary London common, which is yet beautiful in their eyes. The passing of the seasons on and the natural life of the common are beautifully observed, and the people and their thoughts so sensitively portrayed that you feel with them. It is about the relationship between the widowed Sheila and her granddaughter Daisy, and Jozef, a lonely Pole, and the ten-year-old boy TC. However, by the end of the book both these relationships are destroyed: Sheila in a small way betrays Daisy’s trust (and possibly also that of her daughter, Daisy’s mother), and the relationship is broken (though perhaps this is too hard a word); Daisy then becomes the instrument for the breaking of the tender, tenuous, but very real relationship between Jozef and TC, and, in fact, the breaking up of much of TC’s world and the whole of Jozef’s, even though one can see this as having been on the cards from the very beginning – if not by Daisy, then eventually by someone else in our world where so many unhealthy relationships seemingly develop and where innocent ones are looked upon with suspicion. I suppose I had been hoping against hope that this would not be where the book was heading, that somehow there would be a happy ending. I don’t think that was an unreasonable hope – perhaps books/stories should bring hope, happy endings. I feel, perhaps wrongly, that for tragic endings to work in a positive way, they need to be exceptional, teaching great and enduring lessons about great and enduring human emotions (eg King Lear). This book seems to me simply deeply sad and dispiriting, in no way ultimately uplifting. One can only hope that TC’s new life with his father will eventually be a better life for him, but for Jozef it is likely to be a very lonely and bleak outlook. I am so glad my childhood was in a time when children were free to play outside, when there was far less (if any) fear of danger for children.
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Clay
Clay by Melissa Harrison (Hardcover - 3 Jan. 2013)
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