Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Haweswater (Sarah Hall)

I only read two books that were set (or as in the case of the other partly set) in the Lake District whilst on holiday, apart from a reread of Captain Flint's Trunk, mainly because many of the books, particularly children's books that I came across, were very difficult to get hold of. I did manage to get hold of Haweswater by Sarah Hall - the author leapt out at me as she wrote the wonderful Orange-listed The electric Michelangelo, which was on the list one of the very first years that I started reading the Orange books. Haweswater was her first novel, and what a wonderful read it was.

Based on the true story of the construction of the Haweswater Dam in the 1930s, the book tells of the two villages, Measand and Marsdale Green, and their inhabitants which were affected by its creation. Or in the case of the villages, not just affected, but totally destroyed, for the building of the dam involved the evacuation of the villages, and their flooding, in order to build a reservoir that would meet the huge demand for water as industrialisation progressed in the North.

The book centres around the characters of Sam and Ella Lightburn and their grown up daughter Janet and younger son Isaac whose life is concentrated in the countryside that surrounds their home. Janet works in the school, Ella cleans the church. But there lives are irrevocably changed when Jack Liggett, sent by the Manchester City Waterworks, comes to make arrangements for the dam. Janet falls in love with the man who wants to destroy what she is desperate to preserve.

This was one of the most beautiful books that I have read for a while; the characters are wonderfully drawn and the story from start to finish is absolutely gripping. Hall does a fantastic job of demonstrating the emotional impact of the dam on those most affected by it. I wouldn't have heard about this novel had I not been looking for books set in the lakes, so if you come across it, please do read it.


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  2. Verity, I loved this book as well; it was all the more moving since it was based on a true story. Here's my review. I would love to read more of Hall's work.

  3. Delighted that someone else has read this and loved it as much as I. It really is special.

  4. This sounds really good, I'll have to keep my eye out for it. After "oo-ing and ah-ing" over your pictures yesterday, my kids found the video for S&A on youtube and watched the first 10 mins (it is not available in the right format for us to purchase over here). Thanks again for sharing your pictures with all of us. (I left a comment on that post, but it looks like it didn't go through? the computer did something weird when I hit "post" so maybe it was a glitch that's worked out now?) We are big Ransome fans and currently reading through Secret Water. :)

  5. Thanks Jo.

    Laura - I had seen your review! I must read The electric Michelangelo sometime.

    Lizzy - yes, very special and fantastic to read it in the lakes.

    Susan - we still have not watched S and A - maybe tonight as I am feeling quite flaky. There seem to have been some problems with blogger on Tuesday as several people said they were unable to comment on that post :(

  6. I have a copy of this and am really looking forward to it. I loved How to Paint a Dead Man (also partly set in the lakes) and I even got to walk round the Haweswater village during a drought one year. It is great to see that you enjoyed it :-)

  7. Jackie - I forgot about How to paint a dead man - I read that earlier this year and loved it!

  8. I've reserved this from the library, thanks Verity for the heads up.

  9. I love how she has written so many different kinds of books for a writer who only has four novels so far. I don't think I knew this one existed so what a nice surprise to see a historical novel by Hall reviewed here. Dun, dun, dun of we've learned anything from Eastenders it's that nothing good comes out of Manchester.


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