Berlie Doherty on Caroline Pitcher’s Mine, a novel where the voices of the past speak to the present…
Mine is a many-layered novel for teenagers, set so firmly in my beloved Derbyshire that the landscape could be said to be one of the characters. Shelley, jealous of her brother, jealous of her father’s relationship with his new family, feels herself to be unloved and unlovely – and many young people will relate to that. We know that Shelley has to come to terms with all this before she is happy about herself, and the writer has to help her achieve this self-knowledge in a convincing and unpatronising way; what’s more, in a way that makes an intriguing piece of fiction. Caroline Pitcher does this by patterning the stories of two more young women into the narrative. Their very different voices call out from the past for love and understanding, and only Shelley listens to them.
The hillside seethes with voices. They whirl like wraiths through the mines, under stones and tumbledowns. They drift under water in the drowned valley. They wind in and out of crumbled beast shelters. … Hear them. Catch them if you can.
The author pulls together the threads of these three tales in an admirably textured way that is rich in poetry and emotion, and always in touch with the readership for which it is intended.
Caroline Pitcher’s Mine is published by Mammoth, 0 7497 2875 2, £4.50 pbk
Berlie Doherty’s latest book is The Sailing Ship Tree (Hamish Hamilton/Puffin)