The debut novel from the brilliant and award-winning poet Helen Mort
Alexa is a police community support officer whose world feels unstable.
Caron, Alexa’s girlfriend, is pushing her away and pushing herself even harder. A climber, she fixates on a brutal route. Leigh, who works at a local gear shop, watches Caron climb and feels complicit.
Meanwhile, an ex-police officer compulsively revisits the April day in 1989 that changed his life forever. Trapped in his memories of the disaster, he tracks the Hillsborough inquests, questioning everything.
As the young women negotiate Sheffield’s violent inheritance, the rock faces of Stanage and their relationships with each other, Mort stunningly grounds these journeys of trust and trauma, fear and falling, in the texture of the urban and natural terrain underfoot.
'A beautifully accomplished debut...a deeply felt work of loss, time and healing' Guardian
‘Helen Mort is unmistakably one of the most brilliant poets of her generation; Black Car Burning shows her to be a remarkable novelist’ Robert Macfarlane
A love letter to [Mort's] home city of Sheffield... Politics and landscape are fiercely intertwined in the history of South Yorkshire, and Mort now demonstrates that she can write as assuredly on both subjects in novel form as in her poetry... Mort, in a beautifully accomplished debut, has blended a rich alloy: a deeply felt work of loss, time and healing
Black Car Burning explores the ties that bind us: literally, while strung across a cliff face in high winds, or figuratively in the tenuous bonds that hold both relationships and communities together, and which we are all responsible for maintaining. It's especially gratifying to inhabit a female-focused world within a climbing scene still party defined by machismo and male bravado. Helen Mort's writing is confident and compassionate and this is a mature and evocative debut
Mort has reined in the poetry to write a gritty northern novel in a lean, unflashy prose, only letting herself go in lyrical interludes spoken by the landscape itself
Bold, imaginative…intensely realistic, swarming with minute physical and social detail… Mort writes brilliantly about the physical presence of the city, and she deals just as well with the tight focus of the climb... [Black Car Burning] is frequently exhilarating in its accurate sympathy, with some inch-perfect dialogue and astute observation throughout… Poet writes gripping novel: now there’s something you don’t hear every day
An impressive, Sheffield-set tale… the disparate voices are held together by short passages in which the landscape itself is given voice. These act as welcome poetic rocks in the stream of the narrative… [and] are startling reminders of Mort’s considerable poetic skill