Tallack uses a Shetland dialect... It works, adding an insider’s authenticity and richness to the slow-burning story that in places recalls the great chronicler of Orcadian life and character George Mackay Brown... Tallack’s descriptions of sheep farming and the unforgiving elements are particularly powerful... Tallack shows us the past and future colliding in the present, and illustrates the difficulty of maintaining a culture in a world that is shrinking. The Valley at the Centre of the World is a thoughtful, engaging and valuable addition to the literature of islands.
Tallack’s novel is a demonstration that no island – and no person – can ever truly be encompassed... The tone of the book is quiet and serious, the prose throughout restrained, the pace steady, certainly compared with the lyrical and romantic drift of his earlier books... The book is not without excitement and incident... But perhaps most impressive are the careful descriptions of Sandy learning to be a crofter, including one long set piece involving the disposal of a dead lamb.
Malachy Tallack’s first novel is serious, low-key, humane, nothing showy about it. You might call it old-fashioned, but really, or more accurately, it isn’t so much old-fashioned as out of fashion. There’s no fantasy or whimsy about it. No reviewer will praise it as “ludic”. Its characters aren’t the author’s playthings; they are made and treated with sympathy and respect. Low-key as it is, this respect makes it a life-affirming book.