Frank lies in bed, his dying dreams haunted by memories of one long-ago summer, the sticky heat of night, and the stories his father told about Christ, the red-breasted robin, and kings Arthur and Alfred. But other images also rise to the surface, unbidden and unwanted, and Frank finds himself forced to recall his older sister, Iris, whose existence – and terrible crime – he has spent long years struggling to forget.
A glorious yet haunting novel about the guilty silences that bind family members together – and sometimes keep them apart.
Praise for Black Dirt
‘Leyshon is a playwright, and Black Dirt, her first novel, has much of the concentrated, tightly focused nature of a one-acter about it. As Frank lies on his deathbed in his house on the Glastonbury plain, he slips in and out of an opium haze and memories of a childhood summer that ended tragically. His father’s funny, unusual stories of Glastonbury legends punctuate the narrative summoning up Joseph of Arimathea and the Grail, talking animals, and Kings Arthur and, most memorably, Alfred… Short and sharp. Leyshon’s novel, alive to the strange compulsions of storytelling, is captivating.’
‘Spare and beautifully crafted’
‘Each character digs deeper into the earth and each layer that’s peeled away reveals a darker, more sinister one beneath’
Independent on Sunday
‘Leyshon layers story upon story to create a peaty texture, using landscape and local lore in a way that recalls Graham Swift’s Waterland’
‘Haunting. The flood plain around Glastonbury is both the setting and the subject of this novel, layering myth and history to create a sense of a rich and mysterious past’
‘Compelling. Between Prank’s present and his memories are interspersed local legends that work their dark magic on Iris’s imagination to bring about the novel’s devastating climax’