The Offing

Written by Benjamin Myers
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

This is a gentle book. Just after World War II, Robert Appleyard is sixteen, has just left school, and is longing for adventure. Brought up in a Durham village, he knows he is expected to follow his father into the coal mine but decides to explore his world a little more first. Taking the minimum provisions in a rucksack, he walks south into Yorkshire, doing odd jobs on the way for bed and board or simply sleeping in old barns or under hedgerows at the edge of fields.  He reaches Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire, where he meets Dulcie, and his life begins to expand.

This is a beautiful story, told in the first person, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s one of quiet reflection, of the natural world and the life of a village where people know each other well and help out when needed. Robert is introduced to aspects of life he had never experienced in his northern Durham village.

The author knows his country well, as he was born in Durham and now lives in West Yorkshire. He has won prizes for both historical fiction and literature and also achieved a Sunday Times “Book of the Year” award with another novel. His writing draws the reader in, and it is certainly a case of wanting to know what happens next. “Offing” is a word I had not come across before, but the OED defines it as “part of visible sea distant from shore”. An admirable title.