CLEAR by Carys Davies
A man washes up on the shore of a remote Scottish island, his ship having wrecked nearby. He is John Ferguson, a minister of the Free Church, sent to clear the island of its sole remaining inhabitant. While John lays unconscious, Ivar, the man he is supposed to evict, tends to him with care and curiosity, but also steals the one existing photo of John’s wife and begins to obsess lasciviously over it. It is a tense beginning; the two men seem destined to clash in what I half suspected was a book initially commissioned as a Darkland Tale. Davies, however, has little interest in dick swinging stoushes. The tension remains, but only as the undercurrent for a remarkable exploration of duty, language and male friendship.
Coming into Clear, I knew nothing of the Great Disruption in the Scottish Church, nor the Clearances which wrought havoc on pastoral Scotland. Much like in her superb debut, West, Davies has used the footnotes of history to fashion a little book with some very big ideas. It is rare to find the bond between men, and the blurred line between platonic friendship and something more, depicted with such delicacy and beauty. Just gorgeous.
Clear by Carys Davies
Allen & Unwin, 2024