Clear A novel

Carys Davies

Book - 2024

"John, an impoverished Scottish minister, has accepted a job evicting the lone remaining occupant of an island north of Scotland--Ivar, who has been living alone for decades, with only the animals and the sea for company. Though his wife, Mary, has serious misgivings about the errand, he decides to go anyway, setting in motion a chain of events that neither he nor Mary could have predicted. Shortly after John reaches the island, he falls down a cliff and is found, unconscious and badly injured, by Ivar who takes him home and tends to his wounds. The two men do not speak a common language, but as John builds a dictionary of Ivar's world, they learn to communicate and, as Ivar sees himself for the first time in decades reflected thr...ough the eyes of another person, they build a fragile, unusual connection. Unfolding in the 1840s in the final stages of the infamous Scottish Clearances--which saw whole communities of the rural poor driven off the land in a relentless program of forced evictions--this singular, beautiful, deeply surprising novel explores the differences and connections between us, the way history shapes our deepest convictions, and how the human spirit can survive despite all odds. Moving and unpredictable, sensitive and spellbinding, Clear is a profound and pleasurable read."--Publisher's website

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FICTION/Davies Carys
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1st Floor New Shelf FICTION/Davies Carys (NEW SHELF) Due Jun 16, 2024
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Historical fiction
New York : Scribner 2024.
Main Author
Carys Davies (author)
First Scribner hardcover edition
Physical Description
196 pages ; 23 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

The politics of religion and economics often go hand in hand, as Davies (The Mission House, 2021) dramatizes in this spare and beautiful story set in the Scottish Lowlands in 1843. John, an impoverished minister, accepts an assignment to "clear" the last remaining inhabitant, Ivar, off a remote island. John's wife, Mary, is against this mission, and John is scared of crossing bodies of water. Yet the money he will make by completing this job cannot be ignored, so John travels to the island. Unfortunately, he meets with an accident early on, which reboots the calculus of his intentions. As John and Ivar learn to communicate haltingly, Mary decides she must also cross the waters and rescue her husband from a decidedly sorry fate. Davies tells their story within the larger tale of a time when poor rural populations were systematically displaced as part of the Scottish Clearances. One can smell the sea and feel the desperation for human interaction in the two men. Until John had made his appearance, Ivar hadn't fully parsed out the difference between solitude and loneliness. A concise and haunting novel of souls anchored to the consequences of willfully circumscribed lives.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A minister's conscience is tested in the perceptive and beautiful latest from Davies (The Mission House). In 1847 Scotland, John Fergusen has recently broken from the Church of Scotland as part of a movement to form the Free Church, which aims to be independent from the influence of landowners. It's also lacking in funds and unable to pay salaries to its leaders. John and his wife Mary are now impoverished, and he contracts with a landowner for £16 to perform an unsavory errand on a remote island. His task, which flies in the face of his purported principles, is to arm himself with a gun and evict the island's sole remaining tenant, Ivar, so the land can be cleared for sheep. In alternating chapters from the points of view of Ivar, John, and Mary, Davies gradually unfurls the story of John's calamitous arrival on the island, which involves a near-fatal fall from a cliff; his unexpected friendship with Ivar, who nurses him back to health; and Mary's concern about John's safety, which prompts her to board a steamer and come to his rescue. Davies cranks a great deal of tension into the economical plot--as the weeks pass, the reader wonders if John will finally tell Ivar why he's there, whether the gun will ever go off, and how Mary's impending arrival will affect the two men. Moreover, each page blooms with wondrous descriptions of the untamed highlands ("Now and then a long smudge of rain in the distance screened the sun, sending its illumination down onto a band of water along the horizon before it burst through again and lit up the pasture"). This is divine. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (Apr.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A minister is sent to evict the last inhabitant of an isolated island in the North Sea. It's 1843, and two major upheavals are roiling Scotland. First, the barbaric Clearances, in which landowners replace their "impoverished, unreliable tenants" with profitable occupants like sheep, have finally made their way to Scotland's austere northern islands. Second, one-third of Scotland's Presbyterian ministers have revolted against landowner-controlled church appointments--and consequently deprived themselves of any income. Reverend John Ferguson is one of these suddenly impoverished ministers, which is why he agrees to voyage 400 miles into the North Sea to evict a barren island's sole remaining tenant. Armed with a pistol and a calotype image of his wife, Mary, John is dropped off and told that the boat will return in a month. He's barely there a day, however, when he falls off a cliff and is rescued by Ivar, the lonely man he's there to remove. The two men do not share a language, but while Ivar tends John's wounds and teaches him words like leura ("a period of short, unreliable quiet between storms"), he finds himself increasingly attracted to John…who is too ashamed to admit that he's come to kick Ivar out of his home. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, Mary learns something about this particular clearance that causes her to set off in search of her husband. Will John come to reciprocate Ivar's more-than-filial feelings? Will Ivar leave peacefully? Will John's hidden pistol bring the leura to a harsh and sudden end? With her characteristically buoyant prose and brisk sense of plotting, Davies crafts a humane tale about individuals struggling to maintain dignity beneath competing systems of disenfranchisement. But while a lesser author might allow their characters to be terminally lashed by these historical travesties, Davies infuses John, Mary, and Ivar with refreshingly fantastical levels of creativity and grace, which helps them find a startling new way to avert disaster. A deft and graceful yarn about language, love, and rebellion against the inhumane forces of history. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.