Landyn Midwinter and his son work the land of their Suffolk farm in a haze of internalised grief, unaddressed since the death of Vale’s mother in Zambia, a decade before.
But when Vale is involved in a near-fatal accident with his best friend, the family rift gapes wide and he and his father must face the spectres of their own failings as winter bites.
It’s a fairly bleak premise and Melrose does well to balance the dark topics of her debut with a dash of optimism. She expends much effort to capture the gruff language of farmers and exults in nature and pathetic fallacy, finding a simile for her human protagonists’ every awkward feeling in the actions of an animal or the weather.
Unfortunately, this technique is noticeably clunky, particularly as Midwinter’s first-person narration switches between Landyn and Vale’s frustratingly taciturn viewpoints.
As a result, their beautiful, unspoken thoughts and observations simply come across as Melrose’s own – a pity, but a forgivable one.