Book Reviews

Fellside – M.R. Carey

It’s a strange thing to wake up not knowing who you are. 

Jess Moulson – not thinking of herself by that name or any other – found herself lying in white sheets in a white room, overwhelmed by memories of predominantly red and yellow and orange. The colours merging and calving endlessly, out of control, billowing heat at her like she’d opened an over door too quickly and caught the full blast. 

Someone had just been talking to her with some urgency. She remembered the voices, low but coming from right up against her face. 

Her face… now she thought about it, her face felt very strange. She tried to ask one of the women in which who came and went why this way, but she couldn’t open her mouth very far, and when she did, she wasn’t able to make anything happen beyond a few clicks and rasping sounds which hurt her in coming out. 

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M.R Carey has always been an author that I’ll recommend to anyone. His debut “The Girl With All the Gifts” is one of my favourite books. I’m not sure if Fellside will join that list just yet, but it’s definitely another incredibly written literary journey from Carey. It just reminded me of why I love his writing style. With an array of characters, intriguing dialogue and a plot that draws you in this book is definitely one to read.

Fellside is a maximum security prison for women on the Yorkshire moors. And it’s definitely not the sort of place you’d want to end up. But for Jess there’s not really much of a choice as after she’s found guilty she could be spending the rest of her life on Goodall. And as she starts her sentence, she’s begins to hear voices,  eventually even seeing, the ghost of a little boy.

Now this book is far more than something paranormal. I know that I pick up books and see ghost and think “oh god maybe not” and put it back. However the way that Carey uses this ghost like figure is incredibly interesting. There’s a whole lore behind this “other world” that Carey has created, where in you can pass into people’s dreams and affect them, but only when they’re asleep. When they’re awake they are guarded by individual towers. It’s also hard for this ghostly character to appear during daylight hours. I really like the integration of this other character who’s not even sure if they’re remembering things correctly. It adds a really nice tension as Jess seems to hold onto everything this ghost says, whilst as a reader you are often skeptical because you’re not entirely sure they know what they’re saying themselves.

Jess’ character is a little like this throughout. She thinks she knows something, but doesn’t quite. At the beginning of the novel she is incredibly naive and her actions could be seen as childish. However as the novel progresses we see Jess start to develop more. She becomes knowledgable and strong willed, aware of the consequences of her actions. This is a nice contrast to someone like Harriet Grace, the inmate who essentially runs Goodall. She’s a very strong character, with an ability to manipulate others. She runs the drug company in this cell block and spends most of the novel trying to spread out into another block. Yet it is possible to say that Grace’s character is developed from bullying she experienced as a child, something we learn through another inmate, Shannon McBride.

Yet it isn’t just a cast of females in this novel. Dennis Devlin is a guard, whilst also being on Grace’s payroll. The two of them have a strange relationship, almost to where Grace has him perfectly manipulated. It is mostly conjugal, with Grace switching straight back to business afterwards, and it is possible to see that Grace takes advantage of Devlin’s state of mind to manipulate him into doing what she wishes. But he’s also a strong character in his own way. He is authoritative and demands respect, perhaps why the inmates refer to him as the Devil. Yet if you take his addiction to pethidine, you could say he is sup riding weak, as well as reliant, on Dr Salazar, or Sally as he’s known.

Sally was on of my favourite characters to read. By a long shot. He seems weak and miserable through quite a lot, yet with a drive to help people that is infectious. His relationship with Devlin is a supplier to a junkie, yet the latter is in control. Devlin abuses Sally throughout the book and treats him like he’s nothing, which seems like a bad thing to do to the person who’s delivering you drugs. Towards the end of the novel he is hell bent on revenge, something that I love in novels with a character as weak and beaten down as Dr Salazar.

Carey’s writing style once again is fun and full of description that brings the story to life. Fellside is not The Girl With All the Gifts, but it is another great stand alone novel. In the time of the trilogy or the series, to have a good quality stand alone is something that is quite novel, pun intended. His ability to make me visualise something that I have never and probably will never experience is remarkable. I love being able to be transported to another world through literature and whilst this novel can be said to be a contemporary thriller, Fellside in itself is a whole other world, full of deceit, death and drug dealing. These intricate sub plots are vital to the story as every individual inmate has a story to tell, and I think it really fleshes out Goodall block as a whole to find out these stories. The alternating of character focus is seamless and interesting, with character chapters being left without a conclusion, only to be picked up on later. I don’t even feel like this is at all confusing as each character brings something new to a larger story which collides at the end of the novel. The ending of this novel as well… Just superb.

I know a lot of people have complained about this novel feeling slow and not having much to offer, but I’d say push through. I read this during a reading slump and it did take me much longer than anticipated. But I read the last 200 pages in about 3 hours which just proves that the ending picks up massively from the beginning. The beginning is necessary to set up Jess’ case. The story relies on the reader knowing what Jess knows, as well as having their own suspicions. Every reader will have their own thoughts about the ghost, and her trial, which I think makes this novel such an exciting one to share with people. Plus, I’m always recommending Carey’s books, left right and centre.

Total pages – 496

Total read time –  untimed

Rating /10 – 8

Recommend – Yes for those who need a fix after Orange is the New Black finished

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