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on 18 May 2017
This is a book about gentrification of the scenic parts of Britain. It is also the tale of a disturbed and disturbing youth and is told through his eyes and in his voice.

It takes skill for an author to create a character with few if any redeeming features, but Raisin does it here. From the outset - the narration is on the first person throughout - the reader inhabits the mind of a teenage psychopath who already has a suspected rape in his history, as he progresses from minor acts of spiteful nastiness to obsession with an underage girl whose identity, in the last terrible pages, he seems to have confused with his sheepdog.

Much of the writing is in North Yorkshire dialect, which intrigued me, as it shares many words with lowland Scotland where I grew up. The tone captures the character's relentless self-pity and resentfulness perfectly.

The novel has a vividly realised sense of place - you are there where its action is happening. And its characters are real and believable. But in the end I found its chief character so repugnant (and a bit too much like Ian Brady whose death was reported just after I finished reading it) that, while I admired the skill with which God's Own Country was written, I did not enjoy it.
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on 30 August 2017
Mostly cliched and slight - with no strong sense of either place or person.
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on 12 May 2008
Media hype is usually a bit of danger signal for me when it comes to debut novels and Ross Raisin has certainly enjoyed a pretty deafening fanfare for God's Own Country.
But make no mistake: this man is a major British talent and God's Own Country is destined to become a cult classic to sit alongside The Wasp Factory (at least).
The narrative voice is compelling and unsettling: you are in the hands of a deeply disturbed but oddly likeable young farm boy. It's a battle between town and country, a sort of them versus us fantasy, acted out in Marsdyke's head. The narrative is wild, earthily rural, `unlearned', warm and often very funny. But, be warned, Raisin twists and turns your sympathies through this bleak story until the very end. It will certainly be interesting to see what he produces next.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 August 2012
Sam Marsdyke is an outcast in his moorland village since an alleged assault on a girl while at school. He lives a solitary life, helping his violent father on the farm and training his sheepdog pup. Meanwhile the rural community is being 'invaded' by yuppie types; one such family buys up a neighbouring property and Sam strikes up a friendship with their daughter...
Narrated by Sam, the dialect put me in mind of the language used by the youths in 'Clockwork Orange': 'they were rooted to their seats, shuffling about in dafflement'; 'he glegged at his charver but he didn't know what to do neither'; 'some feckless trunklement no one would ever buy'.

I was absolutely riveted from page 1, when in a hilarious episode Sam, out on his wanderings, encounters some despised ramblers. And although described as showing 'unredeemable delinquency', I found it impossible to dislike Sam, whose affection for his dog and intelligence were in stark contrast to the immature and self-obsessed neighbour's daughter...
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on 26 June 2012
God's Own Country is a tale about Sam Marsdyke, a 19-year-old farmer's son living in the North Yorkshire Moors. Expelled from school under controversial circumstances and ostracised by his peers, Sam lives a lonely life with only the land and his animals for company. When the neighbouring farmer dies and his land is bought by a family from the city, Sam strikes up an awkward friendship with Jo, their teenage daughter.

From the very first page you can't help but be struck by the strong first-person narrative voice. The book is written entirely in broad Yorkshire dialect and Sam springs vividly to life from the outset. I found him instantly amusing and likeable, and was left trying to decide whether he has been unfairly accused and judged by his community, or whether he is guilty of a heinous crime.

The premise of the book is not exactly an original one - reclusive loner develops obsession with attractive young girl - and I have found it difficult to write this review without comparing it to The Collector by John Fowles which is one of my all-time favourite reads. You have a working-class male protagonist with a simple, slightly old-fashioned view of life and a strong narrative voice. You have a female character who is middle class, self-confident, maybe precocious and manipulative at times which leaves the reader trying hard not to empathise a little with Sam, even when his obsessions take a disturbing turn. For me, the main characteristic that sets God's Own Country apart is its humour. Sam is darkly hilarious at times and the dialogue is littered with dry wit and one-liners about city folk invading the countryside. I also enjoyed the haphazard nature and disjointed punctuation of Sam's narrative, which reflected his chaotic mental state.

Something else I really loved about this book was the excellent description of the bleak beauty of the moors and the harsh, relentless lifestyle that a farmer has to lead. It served to remind me of the incredible hard work that must be involved in farming, and of the fact that families like Sam's are becoming rarer.

God's Own Country is undoubtedly dark and disturbing, but is filled with humour and boasts one of the most memorable lead characters I have encountered in ages. I would really recommend picking up a copy
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on 11 October 2009
At last, a book with a genuinely interesting premise and intriguing central character. Why do we have to wait so long for that combination? Now, no-one would want to hang out with Sam Marsdyke, but both in his actions and his internal dialogue he does convince. This kind of story needs an unreliable narrator; otherwise, it becomes too simple and linear to hold the interest. Sam's silent monologue provides a context for the tale, a good sense of place and time, and a reasonably coherent explanation of what is to come. I, for one, was happy to tag along as the story got darker and darker.

The book does show its limitations once the action leaves the farm and becomes more of a road trip. Out of his comfort zone, Sam has less of his (twisted) insight to offer; the story becomes more action-oriented and the worse for it; and the last thirty pages seem rushed and overly-convenient. I would have preferred the more claustrophobic, choking atmosphere of the first half of the book to continue. Though I might be in the minority there.

Overall, an excellent debut. Let's hope the next book is as authentic and well-judged.
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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.

Sam narrates the book and his Yorkshire dialect is rich and colourful, but I didn't find it intrusive or unintelligible - I did have to look up a few words, such as "blatherskite", "powfagged" and "hubbleshoo", but I think it's easy to follow Sam`s train of thought without having to resort to a dictionary. There's also a lot of dark humour in the book, mostly at the expense of the ramblers and rich `towns' who seem to be taking over the village and turning it into a yuppie outpost.

As with all the best unreliable narrators, you're never quite sure whether to believe Sam's version of events, especially as his relationship with the neighbours' girl develops and Sam's past comes back to haunt him.

I was very impressed by this debut novel which seems to have caused a bit of a storm in the publishing world and received a lot of award nominations. Definitely an author to watch out for.
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on 1 April 2009
I like it. You have to enjoy Ross Raisin's writing. It is very entertaining and dark! Sam Marsdyke is very tense character which made the story quite intrugued! I think Ross Raisin is very talented and I feel he could make better books in the future. He is definately the future. He remind me a bit of J.D.Salinger.... Don't expect the book too highly though. Just open your mind and enjoy his writing more than the story itself
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on 8 May 2009
As someone who worked for a number of years on the North York Moors, I found Ross Raisin captured it's beauty and bleakness very well in a simple and understated way.

The main character, Sam Marsdyke, is an enigmatic figure that I never fuly warmed too but such was the clever way the story unfolded I found I was eagerly turning the pages to see where the story led me (and no, I won't spoil the story by revealing the outcome).

The use of the vernacular dialect as a vehicle for creating a suitable regional atmosphere was generally effective but at times I found it a little distracting (the copy of the book I read was passed to me by a work colleague who found the Yorkshire dialect so indecipherable that she gave up trying to finish the book !).

Overall I found this an intriguing and slightly disturbing read. The complexities of Sam Marsdyke's character were well portrayed and the author succeeded in maintaining the element of surprise until the end.
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on 19 May 2011
I hadn't heard any of the hype before I read this, I don't think I even read the back cover so had no expectations of this book. I really enjoyed it. I found myself picking up the book every time I had a spare moment.

The story gives a mounting sense of foreboding throughout, possibly by the dark and slightly menacing setting of the Moors, or possibly by the dark and slightly menacing main character. I spent the day after I read it trying to decide what to make of Sam. I'm still not sure, but I think that's the beauty of the book, not a fault.

The only thing I thought might grate was the amount of Yorkshire-isms that could have felt like they had been crow-barred in, but actually, they didn't. The prose fitted. In fact I snorted aloud at seeing some of the obscure phrases I thought only my in-laws used, down on paper.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book. It's only about 250 pages anyway, so you might as well just read it.
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