While he is staying with her he finds a manuscript left by a German woman Dulcie had a relationship with before the war. This is a poetic book with a winning generosity of spirit, moving from a folksy celebration of the rural north to a revelation of the broader horizons that can come from reading and some serious culture.
Durham-born Ben Myers may not be a household name, but he’s one of the most interesting, restless writers of his generation... The Offing is a straightforward, uncharacteristically gentle but beguiling coming-of-age tale that begins when shy 16-year-old miner’s son Robert leaves home, Laurie Lee-style, at the end of World War II... Unfurling at the unhurried pace of a fern, it’s also an evocatively lyrical paean to the countryside — deeply felt and closely observed.
It is a moving and subtle novel in many ways, infused with a love of the minute pleasures in life, and the lasting regrets... Despite the rather glorious descriptions of nature, the core of the novel is a young man finding, through kindness and food, that the world is bigger than he thought it might be. It is a novel full of quotable passages... It is difficult to read the book without reading into the book... The novel does hang together, although the epiphanies through the natural world, brandy and exposure to literature might seem a bit too twee for some tastes. But it does have an honest heart, and a sense of the difference small things can make. The exchanges between the naïf and the eccentric are full of a kind of salty charm, and the perceptions about limited opportunities are done with grace and with a simmering anger.
Myers won the Walter Scott prize for historical fiction last year with The Gallows Pole, a novel set in Yorkshire among rough and rebellious weavers. It is a tale of violence and crime, told in gritty, slang-filled prose. The Offing is a change of direction. It is quiet and unabashedly lyrical... The Gallows Pole was originally published by an independent press. Bloomsbury has bought up all Myers’s previous novels and is reissuing them alongside The Offing. It is an act of faith in the author and, as The Offing amply proves, it is richly deserved.