Many thanks to Camilla Elworthy for another great proof from Picador Books and another wonderful novel from the author Sarah Moss. This time the author looks at life in lock-down and again, as in her last novel Summerwater, packs an awful lot into relatively few pages.
The Fell by Sarah Moss
Published November 11th 2021
Publisher Picador Books
At dusk on a November evening in 2020 a woman slips out of her garden gate and turns up the hill. Kate is in the middle of a two-week quarantine period, but she just can’t take it any more – the closeness of the air in her small house, the confinement. And anyway, the moor will be deserted at this time. Nobody need ever know.
But Kate’s neighbour Alice sees her leaving and Matt, Kate’s son, soon realizes she’s missing. And Kate, who planned only a quick solitary walk – a breath of open air – falls and badly injures herself. What began as a furtive walk has turned into a mountain rescue operation . . .
This is the third novel by this author I have read now and I have pledged to myself to read her older previous books like Cold Earth, Night walking, Bodies of light etc. I found this yet another masterful piece of writing.
Set in near present time, hence during the pandemic, we follow Kate and her teenage son, as Kate has been told to self isolate following close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid. She is a real outdoors person and is struggling with staying inside the same four walls. We also hear from her son who I found a wonderful character and also their neighbour Alice, who has had cancer, and has therefore been shielding for some time.
When Kate feels she can’t cope with the isolation she decides to go for a quick walk. She won’t meet anyone and won’t be long, just a quick stroll. Alice sees her leave from her window, she knows Kate is meant to be isolating but has an understanding of her and why she may feel the need to be outside for a bit, so doesn’t do anything. But then as her son realises she has left the house (there is no note) and probably should have returned by now, he becomes concerned and not knowing what to do or wanting to get his mum in some kind of trouble, he decides to knock on Alice’s door.
Before I go any further with my thoughts on this book I just want to make one comment.
BOY! Can this woman write rain!!!!!
The descriptions, words and imagery she conjures up to describe good old British rain are amazing. As I sat reading this story, as I did in Summerwater too, I could feel the coldness, the damp and wet in my bones. Just the way she might describe a hood being pulled over the head bring it straight to the readers mind. Fantastic!
This novel for me explored a snap shot of what these particular characters experience, during this particular time of the pandemic. Always a hard topic to address as it’s phases seem to move along and change so quickly, when looked back on, the longer we spend within this strange time., but again for me it was her focus on the small things that make her writing a delight.
The suspense within this story and the overwhelming feeling of dread, fear and anxiety I got from the character of Kate’s son is what I remembered most after finishing this book. They felt so real, I just wanted to give him a hug, but of course, we can’t.