Sarah Hall, photo credit: Richard Thwaites  



It is 1936 in a remote dale in the old, northern county of Westmorland. For centuries the rural community has remained the same, the Lightburn family have been immersed in the harsh hill-farming tradition. Then a man from the city of Manchester arrives, spokesman for a vast industrial project that will devastate both the landscape and the local community. Mardale will be flooded to create a new reservoir, supplying water to the Midland cities. In the coming year this corner of Lakeland will be evacuated and transformed.

Jack Liggett, the Waterworks' representative, further compounds the problems faced by the village as he begins a troubled affair with Janet Lightburn. A woman of force and strength of mind, her natural orthodoxy deeply influences him. Finally, in tragic circumstances, a remarkable, desperate act on Janet's part attempts to restore the valley to its former state.

Told in luminous prose with an intuitive sense for period and place, Haweswater remembers a rural England that has been disappearing for decades, and introduces a young storyteller of great imaginative and emotional power.

Haweswater at:

Sarah Hall

'First impression: here is a new writer of show-stopping genius; everyone should buy this novel. Second impression: unremitting melancholy. No contradiction or criticism intended - there are many brilliant books that leave one face down, weeping on the bed . . . There's not a lot to tell you about the author, because she has not been around that long . . . It is easier to predict her future: she will be back with more and better. For now, I stand by my original impressions. Go forth and buy; prepare to weep.' - Helen Falconer, Guardian

'The very best bits are the landscape descriptions - brilliantly done, and I'm hard to please when itís a case of my own territory being painted - and the feeling for the Cumbrian character. Now that is extraordinary, how she's caught it, both in the men and the women. . . A strikingly original first novel, full not just of fury but also of the most sensitive compassion for the people and the place, and an understanding of both which is rare. . . it deserves to make an impact.' - Margaret Forster

'Sarah Hall's ambitious and accomplished first novel deals with destruction and transformation, the sweeping away of old orders and the impact of change on a small community. . . Hall treats her characters with kindness, entering with sympathy into the mindset of a different world. The villagers are not benighted yokels, just decent people doing their best. Jack, never a villain, is transformed by his sojourn among them. The clean, freezing water, teeming with life, that pervades the valley in pools and rivulets is a metaphor for Hall's own style. Her prose is rich, clear, cold, full of images and immensely sensual. A remarkable debut.' - The Times

'From its elegaic prologue to its epilogue's predictable death by drowning, Sarah Hall's confident first novel, Haweswater, is possessed by water ... By the book's close, not only has Hall thoroughly imagined her liquid world, but water has swept everyone and everything away ... the writing is capable of immense control and poise and ... The result is a series of vignettes, frozen moments, like the sepia photographs in the museum visited at the end of the novel ... Haweswater is full of foreboding and gloomy power.' - Times Literary Supplement

'The skill the author displays in drawing her characters, as well as her acute sensitivity to the landscape in which her story is set, makes this one of the most impressive debuts I have read.' - Christina Koning, The Times

'Tender in its evocation, fiercely patient in the sculpture of its lines, Haweswater lifts the ordinary to the mythic. The construction of a dam in Westmorland, England and the devastation of the countryside is vividly brought to life, not simply mourned here but keenly and achingly described. Here is a finely calibrated, tunefully lyric prose, its register the same as water, its pitch at the frequency of the heart. Firmly rooted in its time and place but transcending both, Haweswater is an astonishing blend of the documentary and the magic. Tightly written and immaculately composed, at home in its 1930s idiom this is an ambitious and stunning work of reinvention.' - Dionne Brand, judge of the Commonwealth Writerís Prize

Paperback quotes:

'The lyricism of this debut novel (which has just been awarded a Betty Trask award) is edged with a force redolent of the life, lust and death at the heart of Lawrence and Hardy. And it is a worthy successor to both.' - Andrew Morrod, Daily Mail

'Hall feels the texture of a community caught between two wars ... her bereft territory carries echoes of Hardy but with her own undertow, forging an impressive novel of longing and belonging.' - Guardian

'Haweswater has rich echoes of Thomas Hardy. Hall is similarly sensitive to the scents and textures of farming and her prose is flecked with inventive images Ö While the story of a traditional community displaced by the modern world is powerful and universal, it is Hallís ability to distil extraordinary moments from ordinary lives that gives Haweswater its delicate charm.' - The Times

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