‘God’s Own Country’ by Ross Raisin
Engaging and fantastically vivid, Ross Raisin’s debut novel celebrates the northern dialect with an evocative continuous monologue that surrounds the beauty of the Yorkshire moors. Disturbed adolescent Sam Marsdyke is infamous in the community as he is haunted by accusations of attempted rape at his school. Expelled, isolated on the family farm and starved of parental affection, Sam begins a slow downward spiral and moral deterioration. He turns inwards, amusing himself with animate objects, merrily conducting conversations with farm animals and generally inhabiting his own private world in the Yorkshire moors.
Then a fifteen year old girl from the big city moves into the neighbourhood with her family and things change notably.
As expected, his welcoming present of maggot infested mushrooms does not go down too well with the new family, but there is an organic relationship that springs up between the daughter and Sam. Her rebellious nature intrigues him and in turn the girl seems to like Sam’s quirks and attempts to further bring him out of his isolation. In doing so however the self confessed nimrod slowly begins to then clearly exhibit sociopathic behaviour, unbeknownst to the teenage girl of course.
As a rebellious act the girl convinces Sam to run away with her, losing themselves in the Yorkshire moors. After regretting her rebellious nature, she gets cold feet and Sam’s quirks manifest in sinister ways, marking a break between reality and his imagination. In her desire to bring out Sam’s true character, the girl is startled to realise it is not to her liking.
Humour is a major aspect of God’s Own Country, cloaking many sinister events and insight into Sam’s true nature. Having us trapped in his perspective reflects that Sam is trapped inside his own mind, evoking in the literal sense that the character is lacking empathy, incapable of change and unable to control his sociopathic impulses.
It is amazing how Raisin can create a character in the first person and allow very little insight into the thought processes of the main character, creating a barrier that stays true to the nature of Sam.
Whilst the character lacks in empathy, he does seem to love the landscape, going as far as to personify the Yorkshire moors which almost acts as a character in itself.
Though the ending has garnered much criticism from many others, I believe it depicts a major theme of the novel, highlighting and reflecting on ways that society should deal with people like Sam, who are incapable of changing by no real fault of their own – oppressed and a result of circumstances out of their control.
I have a few points of contention with minor matters of the novel, particularly involving the articulate point of view character that seems at odds with the apparent intellect of the protagonist. Focalisation is not true to the character, making the narrator almost intrusive and influencing the character’s repertoire of thought and language.
Though not out of the realm of possibly, it does however remain unlikely that Sam would have been expelled and removed from education entirely, though this is a matter of no real importance other than accuracy.
Though many others have vilified this story, ‘God’s Own Country’ is a thought provoking novel and a beautiful whirlwind ride through the Yorkshire dialect. Immersive and funny, with exquisite prose and imaginative descriptions of the Yorkshire countryside, Raisin should be rest assured that this is certainly a tale that Greengrass would no doubt be proud of.
Luke Jonathon Fielding