Britain is awash, the sea creeps into the land, brambles and forest swamp derelict towns. Food production has moved overseas and people are forced to move to the cities for work. The countryside is empty. A chorus, the herd voice of feral cows, wander this newly wild land watching over changing times, speaking with love and exasperation.
Jesse and his puppy Mister Maliks roam the woods until his family are forced to leave for London. Lee runs from the terrible restrictions of the White Town where he grew up. Isolde leaves London on foot, walking the abandoned A12 in search of the truth about her mother.
Huge thanks to the author for sending me a copy of Salt Lick in exchange for an honest review. Many apologies for the delay in posting this – the last few weeks of 2021 were, um, interesting!
This book grabbed me from the opening chapters. Its unique mix of pastoral dystopia is not something I remember reading about before, and the descriptions of nature reclaiming the country are exquisitely rendered. There is a poetic beauty to Allison’s prose, heightened by the wise words of the wonderful cow chorus, who I loved. But it isn’t sentimental – there’s a harsh edge of realism, indeed, to the point where it feels uncomfortably close to our present reality. This isn’t a distant, sci-fi future – it feels like a distinct possibility, only a few years away, and this adds a poignancy and a layer of fear, even to the more innocent scenes of Jesse and his puppy. The White Towns feel so terrifyingly possible; this is a book that cuts close to the bone of modern Britain.
It is written in a meditative present tense that unfurls around the reader – it is immersive and immediate, and the characters are treated with a tender respect that honours their humanity and their flaws. I really enjoyed the way their stories intersected – this isn’t a plot-heavy novel, but the careful revelation of the connections between the characters of different timelines shows storytelling skill as well as the ability to write stunning prose.
There is something of the mythic about Salt Lick, and yet it is couched in a realism that seems to reflect a very possible future for this country. By turns it delighted me with the beauty of its language and scared me with the accuracy of its depiction of our society – this is a book that lulls you into a dream-like state and then gently shakes you awake. I highly recommend Salt Lick, and am looking forward to reading more work by Lulu Allison.
Salt Lick by Lulu Allison is published by Unbound and is available to purchase here.