Addlands by Tom Bullough review – colourful farming saga

This decades-spanning story of a family is laced with humour and vividly told

Black and white images may punctuate Bullough’s novel – of blackberries, blasted trees, budding branches – but there is nothing sepia-tinged about this decades-spanning Welsh borders farming saga. The members of the Hamer family, whose lives it chronicles, are realised so fully, and with such vitality, that there seems no doubt about the blood running through their veins, and although it is inevitably – although far from exclusively – a story that moves in the direction of loss, it never descends to hand-wringing: the vanishing salmon, wildflowers and bees are noted and no more.

Like many nature writers, Bullough has a flair for alchemical descriptions, thrillingly repurposing adjectives and verbs. But although he also clearly savours the tang of his characters’ tongues, their speech is never fetishised, and any shadow of earnestness is dispelled by occasional, gloriously unexpected sunbursts of humour.

Addlands is published by Granta (£14.99). Click here to buy it for £11.99

Stephanie Cross

The GuardianTramp

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