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Liz Hyder is a writer, experienced workshop leader and award-winning arts PR consultant. She has a BA in drama from the University of Bristol and, in early 2018, won the Bridge Award/Moniack Mhor's Emerging Writer Award. She is currently working on her second book and a range of other creative projects. Bearmouth is her debut novel.
Photo credit © Ashleigh-Cadet
October 2019 Debut of the Month | Told in narrator Newt’s distinctive phonetic English, this dark debut dazzles with originality and delivers a potent case for combatting inequality. Bearmouth is home to a grim mining business, where men and children labour under inhumane conditions to make their Master wealthy. They work under the earth, under the omniscient Mayker who - so workers are told - “sen us down into the dark Earf/To atone for the sins o our forefarvers an muvvers”. Naïve Newt hasn’t seen daylight in years, but takes pride in being taught to read and write by fatherly Thomas, blithely accepting this lot until the arrival of new boy Devlin. Devlin’s talk of “revolushun” makes Newt feel that things are “unravellin slowly slowly lyke a bootlayce comin all undun.” Life in Bearmouth is beyond bleak, but the sparks of Devlin’s revolutionary spirit catch light and drive Thomas to ask the Master for “more coinage” for the workers, to question why they must pay for essential clothes, to demand to know when the promised safety lamps are coming. Then when tragedy strikes, Newt too realises that things “ent bloody well ryte” and takes on Devlin’s insurgent tendencies, with explosive effects. Emotionally engaging, this searingly original novel about standing up to abuses of power and fighting for freedom is radiant with story-telling excellence.
Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labour, the sunlit world above the mine a distant memory. Reward will come in the next life with the benevolence of the Mayker. New accepts everything - that is, until the mysterious Devlin arrives. Suddenly, Newt starts to look at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective, questioning the system, and setting in motion a chain of events that could destroy their entire world. In this powerful and brilliantly original debut novel, friendship creates strength, courage is hard-won and hope is the path to freedom.