Sinuous and unsettling, dark and magical, Folk is a breathtaking collection of stories exploring the remote, rocky island of Neverness and it's singular inhabitants. For fans of Angela Carter, Sarah Perry and Daisy Johnson.
Come back now, up the rocks that loom above the shore, to where the men and women of Neverness wait with their torches. The sky above their heads is showing the first stars. The door of the day is nearly shut, but this is the hinge of the year itself. Days are shrinking, nights spreading.
On a remote and unforgiving island lies a village unlike any other. Here in Neverness a girl might be snatched by the waterbull and dragged to his dark lair, and Jack Frost can take his chilling revenge on a jealous sister. A babe is born with a wing for an arm, and children ask their fortunes of an oracle ox. The beliefs and rituals of the islanders conjure their own dark spirits, flying with the red kites at night or stalking lustful boys through the gorse mazes. While the islanders live out their own tales, magic always lurks, blighting and blessing lives in equal measure.
Folk is a piece of exquisite writing in which stories interweve over the course of one generation of islanders. The folklore of Neverness is as tangible as its rocky shore, its deep woods and its gorse-prickled headland. In this world remote from our time and place, the tales the islanders tell in the village bard house come to life around them, twisting fates and changing lives.
An extraordinary debut novel ... It feels both ancient - drawing on deep seams of myth and folklore - and strikingly contemporary, pushing at the edges of what we mean when we call a book a novel. In Folk, Zoe Gilbert has made a thing of strange and enduring beauty -- Alex Preston * Financial Times *
Folk is a special book: immersive and dripping with life, each story a spell, an allegory, a dark, smoky poem divined from the landscape of our ancient kingdom ... It reads like a dream that, once visited, is difficult to leave behind -- Ben Myers * Guardian *
Genuinely original, disturbing, beautiful and gripping ... Folk can be read as a map of the British mythic imagination: of the river under the river. Starkly original and expertly written, it draws you, like a faerie song, into a kingdom from which you may never escape, and may not want to * New Statesman *
Dazzling and unsettling, much like the best and darkest of fairy tales * Times Literary Supplement *
A dark, often discomforting debut ... Gilbert's sensuous prose conjures fantastical figures including a man born with a wing for an arm, and a girl who's abducted by a water bull ... Bewitching -- The Best New Fiction * Mail on Sunday *
Folk is absolutely stunning. I loved it. With gorgeous, incantatory prose, it submerges you in a mysterious and utterly compelling world. Its illumination lingers long after you close the book * Madeline Miller, Orange Prize-winning author of The Song of Achilles *
I was thoroughly absorbed. Zoe Gilbert's invented folk-world is sensuous and dangerous and thick with magic * Tessa Hadley, author of The Past *
That rare thing: genuinely unique. It's part-myth, part-allegory, wholly wonderful -- The Best Fiction of 2018 * Observer *
A captivating mythical, magical and haunting debut which draws on fascinating folklore -- Ten Debut Novels to Watch Out For * i *
Wild, domestic, powered by elements both natural and weird, Folk hauls us into a past where there's room for magic and for mystery. Give in and go there * Margo Lanagan, author of Tender Morsels *
An utterly tantalising new voice. With Folk, Gilbert casts a powerful spell, creating a world on the page that feels as old as the hills and yet exquisitely alive ... To read Folk is to find oneself rapt * Alison MacLeod, author of All the Beloved Ghosts *
There are themes of desire and longing, loss and mourning, and the rites of passage that must be undertaken to reach adulthood ... Folk has a powerful sense of mythology, reminiscent of Angela Carter -- Hannah Beckerman * Observer *
As delightful and as dark as the collected Brothers Grimm. The village of Neverness is misted with secrets and sticky with magic. But as mystical as their circumstances might be the villagers are neither Cinderellas nor wicked-witches ... These tender portraits are, perhaps, Zoe Gilbert's greatest act of conjuring * Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You *
Brilliant. It's visceral and savage, but the savagery always comes with a light touch ... The stories all have a beautiful fairytale quality that makes them look like they were spun out of one of Neverness's half-magic mists. It's a gorgeous, uneasy siren of a book * Natasha Pulley, bestselling author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street *
The tales in Folk by Zoe Gilbert could have been ripped straight from the darkest pages of the Brothers Grimm. These intertwined fairy-tale-inspired stories are heavy with symbolism, lyrical and hypnotic * Good Housekeeping *
A haunting portrait of a community steeped in folklore. Gilbert is a fine storyteller, and this is skilful, potent writing * K J Orr, author of Light Box *