This was Tim Pears 6th novel – I have only read 2 of the others – one I loved (In the place of fallen leaves) and one I like rather less (Revolution of the sun). I also watched the TV adaptation of his novel In a Land of Plenty – and heard from my mum that the novel was wonderful too – I didn’t manage to get around to that one but wish I had.
Landed is quite a bleak novel, the story of a man’s life as it comes apart at the seams is terribly sad, but beautifully written. Owen Wood is a quiet man, a gardener who had spent much of his childhood on the hills of the Welsh Marches helping his grandfather on his sheep farm. Owen has a love and understanding of the natural world, but now he lives in Birmingham. Following a car accident that results in the loss of his dominant hand and his eldest daughter Sara, Owen’s life begins to fall apart. His marriage fails, his business fails, and he is tortured by phantom limb pain, he takes to drink.
The story of Owen’s childhood with his grandfather learning about the ways of the countryside is interspersed with documents surrounding the events of Owen’s progress following the accident in Birmingham, an accident report, a case study, internet forum posts – these documents keep the adult Owen at arm’s length for the reader at first. This I am sure is deliberate – as Owen does slowly emerge – a deeply wounded man, separated from his two children, estranged from his wife. Owen decides to undertake a journey – back to the hills in the west where he had spent so much time as a boy. As the journey Owen takes with his children progresses the reader does feel that something isn’t quite as it seems, and yet I was a bit dim about what was happening and so didn’t see the end coming at all, I am sure I should have done. Landed is a beautifully evocative novel, the descriptions of the countryside, so rich in detail, one can smell the woods and see the hills rise up off the page. The picture of a broken man is truly heart breaking. This is a novel that will live in the memory for a long time. I now want to go back and read the earlier novels of Tim Pears I have missed.