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Ashley, a disaffected geography teacher and Jay, a printer in a local arts project, are about to start a family, though both have mixed feelings about becoming parents, especially when their house is crumbling around them and their neighbourhood seems increasingly anarchic. As Jay becomes deeply involved in the fight to save the ancient woodland of Hogslea Common from a planned motorway, Ashley corresponds with his carefree brother, who is backpacking round the world. With the gap between the couple widening as steadily as the cracks in their walls, Ashley has to choose between his parents’ values and abandoning a society he finds increasingly precarious and menacing.

By the author of the award-winning PIG, this is a sharply observed, often funny and thought-provoking tale of modern life and of the choices we all have to make – as parents, children and members of society.


Cowan has the rare ability to write an ambitious novel in a tone which is both intimate and engaging...He creates a fictional world at once bleak and tender, a beautifully exact portrait of a 1900s inner city
<i>The Times</i>
Cowan's observation is superb
[He writes with] freshness and authenticity..Cowan understands the real pain of life's moments of pathos
<i>New Statesman</i>
A fine and acutely perceived novel
A coming-of-age story as strange and surprising, in its way, as THE CATCHER IN THE RYE
New York Times
A first novel of extraordinary poise and accomplishment, treating a boy's coming of age amid the squalid realities of the new British underclass with a delicacy and lyricism which is both gripping and moving
Michael Dibdin
The detail is immaculately recorded; the effect is heartbreaking
Louisa Young, Sunday Times
[A] wholly satisfying book, quietly beautiful and inescapably ominous
David Buckley, Observer
Beautifully evoked ... Cowan writes with a deceptive simplicity
Amanda Craig, The Times
A wonderful first novel
Christopher Hart, Daily Telegraph