Back when I started blogging in the Spring of this year, Louise Walters was the first publisher to take a chance on a newbie blogger. She responded immediately and graciously to my request to an advanced copy of The Naseby Horses and I could not have been more grateful for that lavender wrapped package when it landed.
Now, many months later I am thrilled to have the privilege of kicking off the blog tour for this unique and atmospheric book.
The immediate appeal of this novel and the reason I sent out my first tentative ARC request was it’s setting. Fenland stories always hit my radar. I am constantly on the lookout for a book that can capture the landscape of my childhood, something that encapsulates the unique sense of space, strange beauty and quite unease found in The Fens.
The Naseby Horses does not disappoint. Aside from the little leap of joy and recognition that sparked inside me when I saw the words ‘Gedney Drove’ in print – I have never seen this familiar spot mentioned in literature before (!) – emersing myself in the prose was like standing in the edge of Fenland field. All unease, beauty and strange possibilities.
This impeccable sense of place is one of the novel’s many strengths and it is indeed crucial to the mounting discord within it. Seventeen year old Simon, the central character, has embraced the landscape. A keen birdwatcher he feels an affinity with the wide skies and fens. The family’s recent move to Glennfield, a remote Fenland village, has been largely prompted by his health. Simon suffers from debilitating and deteriorating epilepsy.
But for his twin sister Charlotte, the move has been a disaster. It has wrenched her away from her natural landscape; the chaos and excitement of London, not to mention friends and boyfriends. Two sides of the same coin, the twins invoke an immediate juxtaposition and their relationship adds another strand of tension to the novel.
Tension is the driving force within this tale. It is apparent from the very beginning; for the story begins with Charlotte’s disappearance. The initial feeling is that she has run back to London, to her old life. But the trouble is Simon may potentially have been the last person to have seen her and his memory has been warped by the fact he suffered a major seizure that evening.
Simon’s illness means that his thought’s and recollections are increasingly disjointed. He is the classic unreliable narrator, guiding the reader through not only the circumstances leading up and immediately after Charlotte’s disappearance but also family and village history.
When Simon is handed information about the local curse of The Naseby Horses, his research leads him to believe that it is the key to unlocking Charlotte’s disappearance and bringing her home safely. However the police and his family are less than convinced, and add in the confusion created by his own deteriorating condition and Simon fears that Charlotte may be lost forever.
Dominic Brownlow has created a tale that cultivates and builds upon its unique setting. There is a feeling of a secrets and a deeply entrenched history that is not easily accessed or shared by outsiders. Not everyone will understand or embrace the story and dark past of the village, in the same way that the beauty of the Fenland landscape is not tangible to all.
Told over a tight time scale, the pain filled and chaotic days following Charlotte’s disappearance, the novel manages to weave a complex web of history and mystery, making the unique landscape more than a setting, almost a character in it’s own right.
About the author…
Dominic Brownlow lives nears Peterborough with his two children. He lived in London and worked in the music industry as a manager before setting up his own independent label. He now enjoys life in The Fens and has an office that looks out over water. The Naseby Horses is his first novel. It was long listed for the Bath Novel Award 2016.
And there is more…
For more reviews and reaction to The Naseby Horses check out the rest of the blog tour below.