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Gabi's Review

Award-winning writer Carys Davies’ novel Clear is an exquisite examination of three ordinary individuals brought together during the treacherous unfolding of the Highland Clearances.

Ivar, the sole inhabitant of a remote (fictitious) Shetland island has lived alone for many years as a crofter, until the day he discovers an unconscious man on the beach below the cliffs. The man is John Ferguson, a poor church minister under instructions from landlords to evict Ivar and turn the island into grazing land. Unaware of his intentions, Ivar welcomes John into his home where despite their lack of a common language, a tentative connection begins to form between them. In the meantime, John's wife Margaret anxiously awaits news on the mainland.

Ivar begins to teach John words for objects and the weather in his native tongue of Norn, a dialect spoken on the islands of Orkney and Shetland. As their relationship develops, John learns particular words for emotions, thus enabling the relationship to move from the pragmatic to a more intimate, even tender bond.

The novel’s language is spare but resonant in its exploration of solitude and the desire for connection. As its title Clear suggests, the men come to know themselves and each other in new and illuminating ways. The unexpected arrival of John’s wife on the island in search of her husband adds another layer of complexity to this finely written novel. The words ‘deeply moving’ are often used in reviews, to the point of becoming a cliché, but Davies’ new novel is just that, as it moves from the despair of loneliness to a joyous sense of hope.

Publishers Reviews

A wondrous tale of bonds forged when two men are pitted against each other on a remote island during the Highland Clearances, from the prize-winning author of West.