Most helpful positive review
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
A stylish and engaging novel
on 6 January 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.