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Courage, rebellion and revolution run rampant in this boldly accomplished debut set in brutally exploitative Bearmouth mine
Winner of the Branford Boase Award 2020 | March 2020 Debut of the Month |Winner of the Older Readers' category of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2020
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.
The Branford Boase judges said : ‘Astounding!’; ‘I loved every single second’; ‘plot, story and voice are superb’; ‘I was totally invested in the characters’; ‘interesting, challenging and original’.
On winning the Older Readers' category of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize Liz Hyder said: “Bearmouth was originally inspired by a trip down a slate mine on the Welsh coast some years ago. I vaguely remembered learning about Victorian children working in the mines at school, but I’d forgotten just how brutal and exploitative the conditions were. I wondered if I could set a story entirely in that world, a page-turning thriller in the depths of a mine that would feel as if the walls were closing in but that also contained within it a spark of rebellion. I knew I wanted it to be a first-person narrative with a distinctive voice and Newt, the main character, was in my head right from the start along with the dialect in which the book is written.”
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. Newt 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.
Darkly brilliant. I was totally immersed... subterranean and claustrophobic and a vivid voice telling the story. Gill Lewis, author of A Story Like the Wind
Liz Hyder is a writer of true courage. David Almond
Ambitious and darkly brilliant... provocative, tender, claustrophobic and epic. It blew my mind. Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Publication date: 06/02/2020
Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books
|Publication date:||6th February 2020|
|Publisher:||Pushkin Children's Books|
|Suitable for:||13+ readers, YA readers|
|Genres:||Adventure Stories, General Fiction, Gritty Reads, Science Fiction|
|Recommendations:||Debuts of the Month|
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-CadetMore About Liz Hyder