It is not often a book really surprises me, but this one did. I bought it because I like to buy something by an author I have never heard of when I go book shopping in a bid to extend my reading matter. I am so glad I did.

This is a novel about lonely people who have lost their way and the friendship that grows up between two of them.

The story is good. TC is an 8-year-old boy whose father has left and who hates school so much he spends most of his time trying to avoid it. He has a mother who doesn’t really care and who is in a relationship with a man who tries very hard with TC but he isn’t the father he longs for.

Jozef is a Polish immigrant who clears houses during the day and who misses the family farm in Poland that he lost. He spends his evenings working in a takeaway, whittling animals from sticks he finds in the street and dreaming of home.

Sophia is an elderly widow who has lived in her inner city flat for all her married life. She loves the little park she can see from her window and watches TC and Jozef when either visits. She has a fractured relationship with her daughter who lives nearby but adores her granddaughter even though she thinks she is cossetted by her mum.

It’s a story about loneliness and about the growth of an unlikely friendship and the fears and narrowmindedness that impacts it.

The story is heartfelt and poignant but what makes this novel so special is that it is wrapped up in a nature diary. That was surprising in itself but to read a nature diary about the inner city made it even more interesting.

I’ve never read a book quite like it and absolutely loved it.

This was published in 2013 and won the Portsmouth First Fiction Award and the Amazon Rising Star Award that year.

Harrison, as I discovered when I did a little research, is a nature writer, novelist, children’s author, dramatist and contributor to newspapers, radio and television. Since her debut novel Clay, she has written some non-fiction nature/walking books, a couple more novels and edited four collections of poems/stories/etc inspired by each of the seasons.

This is not a thumping page turner of a book, it is a gentle, lyrical look at human nature and nature and it had me wondering what bird I could hear singing, when the bulbs would erupt from the soil and what creatures were in my garden at night as much as wanting to know what would happen to TC, Jozef and Sophia.

It is a tender, thought-provoking read and I loved it.

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