Doggerland by Ben Smith – Book Review

Title: Doggerland (review copy)

Author: Ben Smith

Genre/Themes: Post Apocalyptic, Speculative Fiction, Literary, Mystery, Poetic Prose, Survival Instinct

Blurb from Goodreads

In the North Sea, far from what remains of the coastline, a wind farm stretches for thousands of acres.

The Boy and the Old Man are charged with its maintenance. They carry out their never-ending work as the waves roll, dragging strange shoals of flotsam through the turbine fields.

Land is only a memory.

So too is the Boy’s father, who worked on the turbines before him, and disappeared.

The boy has been sent by the Company to take his place, but the question of where he went and why is one for which the Old Man will give no answer.

As the Old Man dredges the sea for lost things, the Boy sifts for the truth of his missing father. Until one day, from the limitless water, a plan for escape emerges…

Doggerland is brilliantly inventive, beautifully-crafted and superbly gripping debut novel about loneliness and hope, nature and survival – set on an off-shore windfarm in the not-so-distant future.

My Review

This was a wonderfully atmospheric quick read of the post-apocalyptic variety. It tells the story of an old man (who isn’t really that old) and a boy (who isn’t really still a boy) living alone in a post apocalyptic world tending to a wind farm that stretches for thousands of acres. It is a hauntingly beautiful read with themes of loneliness and hope, nature and survival.

The dialogue between the pair, much like the environment is spartan. But almost conversely this makes for a gloriously rich connection between the two. The boy has come to the wind farm to fulfil his father’s contract to “the company” after his father’s disappearance and presumed death…

But as the reader we never really know for sure. And thusly the relationship between the old man and the boy is one mired in mystery and tension. This makes for a tremendously gripping reading experience as, along with the boy, we as the reader struggle to make sense of this world, make sense of the old man, make sense of all that has gone before.

I can’t even begin to explain how fabulously well written this is as this book makes the atmosphere of this world truly come alive. The prose is simply poetic and incredibly moving while the claustrophobic nature of the story was almost tangible. I thoroughly loved reading this book. It was the ultimate tale of human survival instinct and the driving power of hope in the absence of light.

I also truly appreciated the author’s research into Doggerland (an area that was once land that linked GB to continental Europe but was flooded by rising seas circa 6,000 BC and is now submerged beneath the North Sea) and how he deftly added little touches to the narrative of this once peopled area.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves atmospheric reads and is interested in books that explore the human spirit during periods of struggle.

An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins UK: 4th Estate, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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