Friday 26 August 2022

'Broken Ground', by Lu Hersey: reviewed by Sue Purkiss

Disclaimer: Lu Hersey is a friend, but that's not why I'm reviewing her book. It's because it's really, really good.

There's so much going on in Broken Ground that it's a bit difficult to know where to start. Arlo, the narrator and main character, is a teenage boy who lives with his mother. They used to live on a farm, but lost it, as a result of which Arlo's father, in despair, killed himself. The farm is now owned by a very unpleasant character called Phelps, who wants to get Arlo and his mother out of the cottage they are renting so he can turn it into a holiday let. Phelps also has plans for the farm land; he is hoping to find shale gas underneath it, and has hired a company to do some test drilling.

More elements: there is a strangely magical grove nearby, associated with which is a mysterious, otherworldly girl, who clearly wants something from Arlo. Arlo and his friend Clay make crop circles - but at the beginning of the book, they are astonished when one appears in a field where they had intended to make one - but this one is spectacularly complex and beautiful, far better than anything they could create. Arlo has feelings for another friend, Jaz; and he suffers from seizures. 

But what's very clever about this book is that it avoids the obvious. With all that's happened to Arlo, he could be bitter and angry - but he isn't. He's kind and thoughtful and caring. Clay is a more down-to-earth character, but he is loyal and funny, and a good friend to Arlo and Jaz. Arlo's mum is a kind of white witch; she's not over-protective of Arlo, though she'd have every reason to be. The police are on Arlo's side, not on Phelps's. 

There is a parallel world, rather like there is in some of Alan Garner's books: it's not necessarily a kind world - there is a strong element of darkness running through it. It harks back to a much earlier time, when nature was in the ascendant, not man: the book isn't remotely preachy, but the environmental theme very much underpins it.

And Lu Hersey can most definitely tell a story. This is not a book you'll want to put down.

Sue Purkiss's most recent book is Jack Fortune and the Search for the Hidden Valley, and it's about plant hunters. She reviews books (mostly, but not entirely, adult ones) at A Fool On A Hill.


LuWrites said...

thanks so much for this, Sue! What a lovely review! 🧡🌾

Mystica said...

Thank you for the review. I hope I can track it down as it sounds like a good story