Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Review: Bearmouth by Liz Hyder

For my first review back after the unintentional hiatus, I've decided to review one of the ARCs I was gifted by my local bookstore (seriously, go hang out at your local bookstore and get to know the staff, they get a ton of ARCs that they don't have room for and the staff can't possibly read all of them, which means you might get lucky the way I did). 

This book is, in a single word: amazing

But I think for a review, you'll probably want more than a single word. Allow me to gush about this book for the next few hundred words. 

Firstly, Hyder's voice is so unique. This is experimental fiction at its absolute finest. It isn't pretentious or over-gilded. 

The book is written from the perspective of a young boy who is just learning to read and write, and as such the language is simple and the phonetic spelling is a unique way of reading a book that by rights could be overwritten and use more words than strictly necessary, in the vein of other dystopian/sci fi authors. 

Liz Hyder has taken a possibly pretentious concept and turned it into a charming writing choice creating a fleshed out character in Newt, a young boy who is forced to work in Bearmouth doing hard labour, with the promise that in the next life with the benevolence of The Mayker. Newt is young and naive, and as such accepts what the adults tell him, the way we all do when we're children. Newt is a vividly relatable and believable character despite, or perhaps because of, his naivety. 

Newt works in a mine, called the Bearmouth, toiling for "not much coinage" and accepts that this is his lot in life, until the arrival of Devlin, who shakes things up. He inspires Newt to ask questions, and things slowly change for Newt. 

Newt's journey towards finding out "The Truth" of life in Bearmouth is deeply moving and evokes strong emotions from the reader. I found myself so thoroughly invested in the plot of this novel that when I was interrupted from the reading experience I found it jarring to realise I was on the couch in full daylight, and not down a mine in the dark. 

I can't say too much more about the plot without giving away spoilers but suffice to say Newt is endearing, and the atmosphere is deep, dark and creepy. 

This is a debut novel which I find absolutely breathtaking. To have such a unique voice and story to tell with a debut novel is a rare find. I suspect that Bearmouth will be talked about for years to come and Liz Hyder will become synonymous with experimental fiction.

If you liked Lisey's Story by Stephen King then you may like Bearmouth, not because they are similar in plot or even target audience but because Newt's outlook mirrors Lisey's, the confusion and unfamiliar territory they find themselves in creates a sense of darkness and depths of both earth and emotion that one finds claustrophobic and intriguing. 

If you liked Red Rising by Pierce Brown you may like Bearmouth, again, not because they are all that similar, though Red Rising is a lot more similar to Bearmouth than Lisey's Story, but because Newt is reminiscent of a childlike version of the main character from Red Rising. 

In conclusion, Bearmouth is in my top 5 books for 2019 and I think it may just be my number one book for 2019. 

SETTING: 5 STARS
CHARACTERS: 5 STARS
PLOT AND PACE: 5 STARS
OVERALL RATING: 5 STARS. 

Yeah, I really loved Bearmouth, could you tell? 

Stay tuned for the next review! Let me know if you've read Bearmouth and tell me what you thought in the comments. 

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