This brutal novel packs a hard punch punctuated by occasional flashes of black humour. It's a story of primal urges and the base human instinct for survival. The main characters - all without names - ought to be 2-dimensional and distant but instead they are deep, rounded and unforgettable. The Cumbrian fells heave with life and radiate with beauty yet churn with foreboding and danger. And the ending ... suffice to say, I didn't see that coming.
The girl watched as the deer bucked and flayed with the scent of the girl and the baby strong in its nostrils. And she too could smell what the roe smelled: the stale funk of sweat and unwashed hot parts. The crust of dust and saliva around her mouth. A clammy festering dampness and stale breath. The lingering hum of urine and faeces and the milky vomit of the baby on her back. Everything was heightened; her smell suddenly musky and sickening.
Everywhere around the girl the undergrowth was creeping and rustling and crackling and seething and breeding and watching. The scrub and thicket was alive and vivid and she was brilliant and she was coursing with adrenalin but still barely daring to draw breath for fear of somehow impinging further upon the territory of the deer.