God's Own Country, By Ross Raisin
An unsettling rural tale that shows why townies fear the countryside
Thursday 06 March 2008
The countryside often unsettles townies. It is as if the farms and fields, with all their evidence of human and animal interdependence, are subtly insinuating our own essential bestiality. Rather than revelling in bucolic bliss, urban visitors may fear they are no more than a cornstalk away from Straw Dogs or Deliverance.
In his first novel, Ross Raisin capitalises on these anxieties with panache. His narrator, Sam Marsdyke, lives with his parents on a sheep farm in the Yorkshire Moors. The Moors are harsher than the picture-postcard Dales, and Marsdyke is their fitting familiar: a malcontent who might have sprung fully formed from their acidic sod. With a lanky frame topped by an elongated head – he is nicknamed "Lankenstein" by schoolmates – Marsdyke lurks in an isolation that allows full play to his fevered imagination.
He fantasises continuously about the animate and inanimate. When he sees a stuffed fox's head in a pub, he reads its mind: "My stars, that looks like a tasty dinner you've got down there, I'd be after a bit of that, if they hadn't nailed my head on the wall". Unfortunately, Marsdyke's obsessing about girls, in particular, triggers delusions accompanied by alarming losses of inhibition. By the novel's start, he has already been expelled from school following an indecent assault. A 15-year-old schoolgirl moves into the farmhouse next door with her family of "towns"; despite his chronic lack of social skills, Marsdyke manages to strike up a friendship with her. The story makes its way through bleak and beautiful terrain towards inevitable disaster.
Among contemporary writers, there is a clear comparison between Raisin and Niall Griffiths; but where Griffiths fully inhabits his characters' passionate lust for life and anger at their underclass existence, Raisin remains a little detached from Marsdyke. This more neutral authorial stance lends the story much of its dark humour. The flipside is that, without a direct identification with Marsdyke's miserable fate or the wider rural predicament, ultimately he cannot become much more than a monster on the loose: yet another rural Frankenstein, or Lankenstein, to play to townies' worst fears.
Nevertheless, Marsdyke's sardonic self-awareness and his inability to stop his fancies from galloping away with him remain wilfully engaging. Raisin's achievement in creating and sustaining such a richly distinctive narrative voice is considerable.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michelle Rodriguez: Fast & Furious actor apologises after telling 'minorities' to stop taking on 'white' roles
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Eurovision 2015: Finnish punk band with learning disabilities applies to raise awareness
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Aidan Turner interview: 'being a sex symbol is a little awkward'
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'