Raisin’s impressive debut novel, God’s Own Country provides a compelling and unsettling insight into the intense inner workings of the mind of a disturbed and delusional young farmer in rural isolation in the North Yorkshire Moors. In a highly evocative dialect Raisin charters Sam Marsdyke’s disintegration from an ostracised oddity to a full-blown madman.
Expelled from school for allegedly attempting to rape a fellow pupil, Sam Marsdyke remains excluded from his family and gossiping community. He is confined to working the farm with his gruff, monosyllabic father and trudging across the moors, dwelling on the frustrations and injustices of his life.
Despite Sam’s distinct hostility towards the townies his interests are aroused when a London family, with an adolescent daughter, move into the neighbouring farm. The daughter’s unruly nature, coupled with her boredom, leads to an uncanny friendship between the two, and she unwittingly further encourages Sam’s fevered imaginings, setting the stage for impending tragedy.
It is not the somewhat predictable storyline which makes this novel so remarkable, but the fantastically vivid, unique interior monologue of the narrator. Sam, whose love for the ‘real’, sheer Moors is depicted with vitality and dexterity, passes acutely witty observations about the kitsch, goggle-eyed world of the tourist and second homers who view famers with awe as, ‘real, living, farting Nature’. Sam’s whirling mind, filled with blasersykthes and nimrods, gommerils and nazzarts, has an engaging ability to animate everything he encounters; he can imagine the thoughts of stuffed fox head in the pub and conjure up the empty chit-chat of exasperating ramblers trundling along the moors. Its Sam’s voice, both funny and disconcerting, which renders him a pitiable yet repellent character and makes for an absorbing read.