Infinite Sky is C J Flood’s debut novel, and she has chosen to write about heavyweight themes: first love, family breakdown, the sudden violent death of a young person.
The story is set in the recent past (the seventies?) and takes place during a hot, dry summer. It is narrated by 13-year-old Iris. Iris’s mother left the family in the spring, and has gone to Tunisia in a camper van in search of adventure. This has hit Iris’s dad and brother, Sam, very hard and Iris is left lonely and isolated. When a family of Travellers set up camp in the paddock next to their farmhouse, she watches them in secret, envying their apparent closeness. She’s drawn too to the teenage son, and soon the two are friends, Iris sneaking out without her father’s knowledge to spend time with Trick. Hidden in their den in the cornfield, or during secret midnight swims in the lake, their relationship intensifies. The presence of the Travellers, and Iris’s feelings for Trick, are the catalyst for a shocking series of events that ends in tragedy.
C J Flood writes very well and this is an assured debut. As a latter day version of Romeo and Juliet, it can’t be anything but intensely moving. It’s the smaller details that really impress however, and in particular the descriptions of the Derbyshire countryside, providing moments of quiet amongst the high drama: sunlight stabbing through ash and willow to make a spotlight on the stepping stones; chub sliding beneath the surface of brownish water; the bright red cardinal beetle crawling along a piece of rotting bark that reminds Iris of her dad, conspicuous in his unwavering certainty of how things should be.