I read the author’s earlier book, The Girl With All the Gifts, with great delight; it was a stunningly original, refreshing novel full of twists and turns, surprises and absolutely outstanding characters. There was a horrifyingly realistic darkness to it, which made the read tremendously grim yet utterly compelling. So it was with great anticipation that I saw about this new book.
Fellside is a privately run maximum security prison for women on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It is divided, internally into various areas depending on the reasons the women have been placed there. And Jess Moulson remembers only too well why she’s there. She didn’t, to start with, and the events that have shattered the remainder of her life had to be pieced back together. Jess is sure that the only way she gets out is through a one-way journey, but when she finds herself being contacted by a figure she remembers only too well, she comes to the conclusion that there may be still one thing worth fighting for.
This is a book which, like The Girl With All the Gifts, hits hard and brutally. There are no punches pulled in this story, which deals with awful social and personal events and their repercussions. The prison atmosphere is grim, the people who Jess comes in contact with are scarred and brutalised, the reason she’s there in the first place is unremittingly awful and difficult to comprehend. But throughout the whole story there is a layer of humanity and compassion; of ordinary people struggling to make sense of the situations they find themselves in. On the periphery of the women doing time in Fellside are those who would seem, at first to be untouched by it all; but they are in fact even more involved than they could know – the doctor, the nurses, the prison guards and the prison Governor; all will be changed for ever once Jess Moulson enters Fellside.
A great story, told brilliantly, and one which leaves you with a bad taste of what life can be like, but which also fills you with hope. There run throughout Carey’s books a real understanding of what it is to be human, and that thread imbues all the characters, in all their flaws. A great read, and thoroughly recommended.