Larchfield is that rare first novel that utterly achieves its great ambition.
I found it so immensely readable; it’s brainy, verbally acute and knowing, with an ingenious literary historical premise that it impressively (and artfully) carries off right in front of your eyes. It’s work of considerable talent.
For anyone who knows what it feels like to move to a new place and feel lonely, or feel like an outsider, this book will speak to you. Larchfield, the first novel by writer and poet Polly Clark, cleverly connects two imagined lives, flicking between the 1930s and the early 2000s. On one side is poet W H Auden and the two years after university when he taught at a boys’ school, Larchfield, in the small Scottish coastal town of Helensburgh. In the present day is the life of Dora Fielding, a once prestigious poet in her own right who loved her life in London before moving to the same town with a new husband and baby. As Dora struggles with her isolation and her battles with the upstairs neighbour, she starts to lose her grip on reality and her obsession with Auden intensifies. How will it end for both of them?
The Independent, on choosing Larchfield as a Best Book Club read.
PRAISE FOR LARCHFIELD
‘Gripping’ — Margaret Atwood ** ‘Magnificent’ — Alexander McCall Smith ** Mysterious, wondrous, captivating — Louis de Bernieres ** An impeccably told story of isolation and creativity, it’s as involving as a thriller — Mail on Sunday ** Clark has written a measured and graceful novel; this is particularly true of the way she handles Dora’s gradual unravelling — Observer ** What a wonderfully satisfying and gratifying book it is: vivid, moving, sympathetic, beautifully shaped, convincingly inventive, and tactful in its approach to painful depths. I enjoyed it enormously — Edward Mendelson ** An imaginative novel, written with poetic force… Moving and wonderful — Daily Express ** One of those wonderfully rare novels that catches hold of you and reels you effortlessly in from the moment you begin turning its pages. Its lyricism and imaginative prowess bring to life the inner lives of two poets separated by time — Stylist **
You can read more about the Mslexia competition and the experience of winning here.
You can read the press release about Quercus’s acquisition of Larchfield for their literary imprint riverrun here.
You can see more quotes about Larchfield on the Quercus Larchfield page here.