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Havergey | John Burnside | Review

Though I didn’t really know much about this book going into it, it continued to surprise with every new page. It was unusual and innovative and downright intriguing.

Havergey is a strange book but that just made the reading experience all the more enjoyable. Written by John Burnside, it tells the story of a traveller who stumbles upon the island of Havergey, a remote place that has become something of a utopia in a broken and wounded world. He arrives and is quickly placed in quarantine. There he begins to unravel the history of the unusual place, unpicking its secrets and those of the wider world too.

These records, or The Archives as they are known, were probably one of my favourite parts of this curious little novella. A found manuscript that seemingly fits in the main narrative it was an intriguing look at how exactly the world began to fall apart and how Havergey was reclaimed to make a new community.

Havergey itself remains something of a mystery throughout the novel so these snippets into the community were fascinating. They hooked me entirely and, even if I found the turns and twists a little surprising, I was still desperate to continue reading. It’s quite a difficult book to describe without giving a lot of the plot away but I can promise that it has plenty of entertaining secrets for you to discover between its pages.

Alongside this, the novella also serves to discuss environmental issues, Gaia theory and the impact humans have on the natural world. It is not something I know much about so it was good to learn a little more, especially through a more fictional lens. It did mean that there were moments when the narrator could get bogged down in some of the technical bits of such theories. Since they’re a scientist, I’ll forgive them for that, especially since the rest of Havergey is so beautifully written.

Havergey might be a little different from the fantasy I’ve been reading at the moment but I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different!


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