My enormous thanks to Louise Swannell at Hodder for a copy of The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan in return for an honest review. The Farm at the Edge of the World is published today, 30th June 2016, by Hodder and Stoughton and is available for purchase from Amazon, Waterstones, iTunes, W H Smith, all good bookshops and directly from Hodder.
The Farm at the Edge of the World
1939, and Will and Alice are evacuated to a granite farm in north Cornwall, perched on a windswept cliff. There they meet the farmer’s daughter, Maggie, and against fields of shimmering barley and a sky that stretches forever, enjoy a childhood largely protected from the ravages of war.
But in the sweltering summer of 1943 something happens that will have tragic consequences. A small lie escalates. Over 70 years on Alice is determined to atone for her behaviour – but has she left it too late?
2014, and Maggie’s granddaughter Lucy flees to the childhood home she couldn’t wait to leave thirteen years earlier, marriage over; career apparently ended thanks to one terrible mistake. Can she rebuild herself and the family farm? And can she help her grandmother, plagued by a secret, to find some lasting peace?
This is a novel about identity and belonging; guilt, regret and atonement; the unrealistic expectations placed on children and the pain of coming of age. It’s about small lies and dark secrets. But above all it’s about a beautiful, desolate, complex place.
When midwife Lucy almost makes a fatal error at work and her husband Matt doesn’t deny he is having an affair, Lucy returns to her childhood home in Cornwall where huge debts are threatening to destroy the family heritage.
My Review of The Farm at the Edge of the World
The events surrounding Will and Alice in Cornwall in 1939 will have reverberations across the decades.
What a glorious book. Sarah Vaughan has the ability to transport the reader to a different time and place with just a single word. There’s a beauty and an emotional truth to her prose which is enthralling. I loved The Farm at the Edge of the World.
Sarah Vaughan is so skilled in gradually revealing the secrets of the past, weaving a mesmerising tale that draws in the reader without their realising it. There is a poetry to the prose so that settings come alive in vivid colour. Emotions too ripple, ebb and flow like the seas on the beaches of Cornwall so that Cornwall itself becomes like another presence or character. And what a cast of characters there is. Each person, from the harshly disappointed Evelyn to the flawed and complex Maggie plays an important role so that they are as important to the novel as the suggested protagonist Lucy. I believed in every single one of them.
Cleverly constructed narrative so the tenses change and match the times, Sarah Vaughan subtly alters the vocabulary she uses to add an extra layer of authenticity. The passages set Now are subtly different to those set Then. Both captivate the reader.
I was entirely wrapped up in the themes of The Farm at the Edge of the World. Deftly plotted, love, grief and betrayal are emotionally portrayed alongside a realism that means not everyone will get a happy ending. This is such compelling writing. Although I couldn’t draw myself away, neither did I want the read to end, so wonderful was the writing.
The Farm at the Edge of the World is one of those books that has stayed with me long after I closed the covers because of the emotional intensity of reading it. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
About Sarah Vaughan
Though Sarah didn’t start writing fiction in earnest before she turned 40, she had put pen to paper – or fingers to a keyboard – every day of her career. Before writing novels, she was a journalist, writing under the by-line Sarah Hall. After journalism college, she trained with the Press Association and then spent 11 years on The Guardian as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent.
Long before that, Sarah read English at Brasenose College, Oxford. Reading Beowulf may not have helped her become a novelist but reading and thinking about writing for three years undoubtedly did. Sarah now lives just outside Cambridge with her husband and two young children and when she’s not writing or reading, she loves to swim and bake.
Sarah’s first novel The Art of Baking Blind is available here.