Doggerland

Ben Smith

‘His father’s breath had been loud in the small room. It had smelled smoky, or maybe more like dust. He had knotted and unknotted a strap on the bag he was holding – he must have been leaving to go out to the farm that day. ‘I’ll get out,’ he’d said. ‘I’ll come back for you, ok?’ The boy remembered that; had always remembered it. And, for a time, he’d believed it too.’

In the North Sea, far from what remains of the coastline, a wind farm stretches for thousands of acres.

The Boy, who is no longer really a boy, and the Old Man, whose age is unguessable, are charged with its maintenance. They carry out their never-ending work, scoured by wind and salt, as the waves roll, dragging strange shoals of flotsam through the turbine fields. Land is only a memory.

So too is the Boy’s father, who worked on the turbines before him, and disappeared. The boy has been sent by the Company to take his place, but the question of where he went and why is one for which the Old Man will give no answer.

As his companion dredges the sea for lost things, the Boy sifts for the truth of his missing father. Until one day, from the limitless water, a plan for escape emerges…

This beautifully crafted novel about loneliness and hope, nature and survival, is as haunting as it is compelling – a very special debut indeed.

Reviews of Doggerland

  • ‘In Doggerland, Ben Smith has created a vision of the future in which the world ends with neither a bang nor a whimper but just rusts gradually into the sea. I found it both terrifying and hugely enjoyable, as well as tremendously moving. Ben Smith’s writing is incredibly precise; working with a restricted palette of steel greys and flaking blues, he paints the boundaried seascape with vivid detail. This is a story about men and fathers, the faint consolation of routine, and the undying hope of finding out what lies beyond the horizon. I absolutely loved it’ Jon McGregor, author of Reservoir 13

    ‘There’s a patience and rhythm deep in the prose – this is going to make a mark’ Cynan Jones, author of The Dig

    ‘Imagine, if you can, that Samuel Beckett, William Golding and J.G. Ballard got together to write a novel. It would be something like Doggerland – a melancholy yet riveting vision of isolation and endurance at the end of days. It heralds the arrival of a major talent’ Gregory Norminton, author of The Devil’s Highway

    ‘The Road meets Waiting For Godot: powerful, unforgettable, unique’ Melissa Harrison, author of At Hawthorn Time

    ‘An ecological horror which I read stricken and captivated from start to finish. Smith allows the enormity of the situation to dawn on us gradually and inexorably, scavenging what little hope remains along with our protagonists. Doggerland is a novel that holds its nerve, unflinchingly, combining minimalism with intense, lyrical flourishes. An astonishing, prophetic debut which should be read by everyone’ Luke Kennard, author of The Transition

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