An enchanting love story and a portrayal of innocence brutally curtailed
JOSH LAWTON, a young Cumbrian orphan and farm worker, is an exceptionally good man. Strong and athletic, he is trained to be a fell runner by Cedric, a garrulous ex-soldier who takes Josh under his wing. But Cedric is alienated when Josh falls in love with Maureen, a worldly girl from the neighbouring town, marries her and fathers a child. However, the quiet and simple life that Josh loves does not satisfy Maureen who seeks excitement back home in the arms of her former lover, a local bully. The betrayal brings Cedric back into Josh's life, eager to discredit the woman who had usurped him. It also leads to a climax that is both inevitable and shocking: Josh, who hates fighting, is drawn into a battle with Maureen's lover and is killed. Cedric, filled with revenge, can only turn his knife on himself. The novel's tragic ending is both a warning against simplicity and a cry for its presence in everything.
With this novel, Melvyn Bragg has established his place in English letters to the extent that his Cumbria is as potent a literary region as Hardy's Wessex, Lawrence's Midlands and Housman's Shropshire - New Statesman
The story unfolds with admirable simplicity ... beautifully told and even the most brutal and inarticulate characters somehow manage to engage our sympathies - Auberon Waugh, Spectator
A pleasure to be remembered - Financial Times
An effortless writer. He never strains for effect, simply achieves it. The pleasure to be had from this book is that of feeling, without having been exposed to any lies or romantic evasions, that the world is perhaps a better place than one had thought - Sunday Times
Melvyn Bragg is a writer and broadcaster. His novels include The Hired Man, for which he won the Time/Life Silver Pen Award, Without a City Wall, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, The Soldier's Return, winner of the WHSmith Literary Award, A Son of War and Crossing the Lines, both of which were longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, A Place in England, which was longlisted for the Lost Man Booker Prize, and most recently Grace and Mary. He has also written several works of non-fiction, the most recent being The Book of Books about the King James Bible. He lives in London and Cumbria.