A boy creeps down from a high-rise block in the half-light of dawn to see the neat prints left by a fox on the frosty grass. He is TC, eight years old and skipping school to spend his time exploring the city's waste ground and long-forgotten wild corners. At school and at home he is barely missed. Sophia, seventy-eight and a half and still wearing her dear dead husband's shoes, looks out through her kitchen window at the little city park outside her flat, its grassy acres grimy and litter-blown, but to her eyes beautiful. She is writing her weekly letter to her granddaughter Daisy, whose privileged upbringing means she exists in a different world to that of TC, even though they live less than a mile apart. Jozef spends his days clearing houses and works night shifts at the local takeaway, but he is unable to forget the farm he left behind in Poland, the woods and fields he grew up with still a part of him, although he is a thousand miles away. When he meets TC in the little park one night he finds a kindred spirit, despite the forty years between them: both lonely, both looking for something, both lost.
A lyrical debut novel about innocence and experience, class and consumerism, Clay captures the delicate balance of life in the city, between young and old, between nature and development, between recklessness and caution.
A gently-evoked urban tragedy - and the most powerful and original debut novel I've read for years * A N Wilson, Readers Digest *
Clay moves to rhythms that we associate less with fiction than with the close-descriptive style of nature writers such as Robert Macfarlane ... At the heart of Clay is a hymn to attentiveness, both to the natural world and to those we share it with * Financial Times *
Instantly beautiful in its calm and wise tone * Robert Macfarlane *
Heartfelt, elegaic ... Lovingly observed * Sunday Times *
The wonderful power of her looking builds a quiet, cumulative poetry. An impressive debut * Mark Cocker, author of Crow Country *
Fierce and tender ... Country come to town with lyrical, visceral power ... She evokes with rhapsodic delight the animal and plant life that still flourishes amid the concrete and Tarmac * Boyd Tonkin, Independent *
Harrison gives lovely expression to her vision of an ecosystem thrumming away beneath the grime of city life * Guardian *