Black Car Burning
- Helen Mort FRSL (one of our writers)
- Children's booksNovel
- April 2019
- Chatto & Windus
About the publication
Alexa is a young police community support officer whose world feels unstable. Her father is estranged and her girlfriend is increasingly distant. Their polyamorous relationship – which for years felt so natural – is starting to seem strained. As she patrols Sheffield she senses the rising tensions in its disparate communities and doubts her ability to keep the peace, to help, to change anything.
Caron is pushing Alexa away and pushing herself ever harder. A climber, she fixates on a brutal route known as Black Car Burning and throws herself into a cycle of repetition and risk. 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 the streets of the city and its violent inheritance, the rock faces of Stanage and their relationships with each other, the urban and natural landscape watches over them, an ever-present witness. Black Car Burning is a brilliant debut novel of trust and trauma, fear and falling, from one of our best young writers.
"Helen Mort is unmistakably one of the most brilliant poets of her generation; Black Car Burning shows her to be a remarkable novelist, too. Here the landscape itself is given presence – a deep-time gritstone witness to the hearts and hates of humans. Violence, trauma, trust and hope twine together in this novel of many voices, ancient and modern. As you're drawn on through – up into – the book, you begin to realize that beneath the bright surface is a profound patterning, slowly disclosing itself to the reader."Robert Macfarlane
"This book is a symphony of voices: of lovers and the land they grasp in strong but scar-lined hands. Black Car Burning channels the soul of a city and its surrounds. Helen Mort shifts with deftness and empathy from the sensuous to the dark, communing with slandered neighbourhoods, the shadow of a disaster, and a generation's complex ascents through love. A hymn to a special city and an unforgettable book."Damian Le Bas, author of The Stopping Places
"This agile, softly-spoken novel isn’t so much about rock climbing as about being alive. Helen Mort tracks her characters from the gritty pleasures of the Sheffield crags to the traumas of Hillsborough. Meanwhile, the very rocks and rivers speak, defining a landscape of use, mystery and change, hope. Brilliant."M. John Harrison