Siân Hughes

14 September 2023
232 pages



‘An exceptional debut novel ... Hugely ambitious. It’s a book that will be passed from hand to hand for a long time to come' BOOKER PRIZE JUDGES

‘Compulsive and wonderfully written ... A small gem’ TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

‘A novel that has wisdom and experience distilled into it’ TIMES

‘Deeply appealing’ FINANCIAL TIMES

‘Stunning debut’ SUNDAY POST

Marianne is eight years old when her mother goes missing.

Left behind with her baby brother and grieving father in a ramshackle house on the edge of a small village, she clings to the fragmented memories of her mother’s love; the smell of fresh herbs, the games they played, and the songs and stories of her childhood.

As time passes, Marianne struggles to adjust, fixated on her mother’s disappearance and the secrets she’s sure her father is keeping from her. Discovering a medieval poem called Pearl – and trusting in its promise of consolation – Marianne sets out to make a visual illustration of it, a task that she returns to over and over but somehow never manages to complete.

Tormented by an unmarked gravestone in an abandoned chapel and the tidal pull of the river, her childhood home begins to crumble as the past leads her down a path of self-destruction. But can art heal Marianne? And will her own future as a mother help her find peace?