Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016
Observer Best Fiction of 2016
Timothy Buchannan buys an abandoned house on the edge of an isolated village on the coast, sight unseen. When he sees the state of it he questions the wisdom of his move, but starts to renovate the house for his wife, Lauren to join him there.
When the villagers see smoke rising from the chimney of the neglected house they are disturbed and intrigued by the presence of the incomer, intrigue that begins to verge on obsession. And the longer Timothy stays, the more deeply he becomes entangled in the unsettling experience of life in the small village.
Ethan, a fisherman, is particularly perturbed by Timothy’s arrival, but accedes to Timothy’s request to take him out to sea. They set out along the polluted coastline, hauling in weird fish from the contaminated sea, catches that are bought in whole and removed from the village. Timothy starts to ask questions about the previous resident of his house, Perran, questions to which he receives only oblique answers and increasing hostility.
As Timothy forges on despite the villagers’ animosity and the code of silence around Perran, he starts to question what has brought him to this place and is forced to confront a painful truth.
The Many is an unsettling tale that explores the impact of loss and the devastation that hits when the foundations on which we rely are swept away.
‘Ominous, subtle and beautiful – an intensely resonant trawling of suffering’s deep currents.’ —Michael Marshall Smith
‘In this beautiful and frightening novel, Wyl Menmuir understands that loss is an enormous anchor from which everyone swings on the tide. His characters know they can never hoist this anchor, they only know they must try; otherwise the lifting lines become heavy chains dragging them to the bottom. The Many then captures the ecstasy observed on the faces of the drowning in the moment they surrender themselves to the sea.’ —Mark Richard, author of Fishboy
‘The Many unfolds like an unsettling dream, shifting illogically, asking the reader to accept leaps from reality to what seems like it may be fantasy (or may be a matter of perception). But it's not just a strange fable, there is humanity in it too: Ethan's palpable grief for Perran; the locals' struggle to adapt to a world in which their former livelihoods have become obsolete; the touches of tenderness in Timothy and Lauren's scenes together. Its portrayal of a community left behind by technology and bureaucracy, suspicious of the threat represented by 'outsiders', is recognisable and timely – perhaps even more so now than the author may have intended.’ —Learn This Phrase
‘Though it was perhaps not written with this in mind, reading the novel during the nightmarish toxicity of the EU Referendum gives it an interesting prescience in its exploration of a failing, unwelcoming community's reaction to an outsider, the decaying environment that surrounds them both and the looming warnings of a distant bureaucracy. That fishing quotas, ecology and environmental regulations are also part of the ongoing debate feeds into that sense of a discussion in microcosm. The sense of loss that permeates here is not just related to the personal, but to the social and communal as well.’ —Film and Other Assorted Buffery
‘The sparse prose is dark and intense, strikingly written with a haunting quality that sends shivers through the soul.’ —neverimitate
‘This book is powerfully written and haunting. Always teetering on the edge of the gothic, Menmuir describes a coastal community that is dreamlike, slightly out of focus, with its own rules that Timothy never grasps. At the same time, it is rooted in the real world: remote bureaucracy, plummeting fish stocks and maritime pollution have blighted the lives of the fishermen.’ —Blue Book Balloon
‘Menmuir’s homespun horror has flashes of Daphne du Maurier’s ghost-gothic and John Wyndham’s dystopia while displaying its own individuality and flair … Menmuir steers a steady course; the result is profound and discomfiting, and deserving of multiple readings.’ —Catherine Taylor, The Guardian
‘At about the two-thirds point, I started to realize that I was not reading a conventional, if slightly off-kilter and moody, story about a man having a hard time getting his life back together in a semi-hostile village. No, The Many is a horrific, beautifully horrific, tale that I cannot shake, as much as I may like to.’ —The Mookse and the Gripes
‘It creates an effective sense of tension and psychological suspense along the lines of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw but passages where the men are out fishing in the gloom also invoke a feelings of intense meditation and a primal self-sufficiency similar to Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I was slowly drawn into the novel’s bizarre climate of secrecy and impending doom. The Many is a brisk, impactful novel which poignantly portrays grief, solitude and an inhibited state of consciousness.’ —Lonesome Reader
‘an intriguing first novel’ —Fiona Wilson, The Times
‘This is a novel that has to be read at one go but one of those rare stories that once you have reached the end you start reading it all over again. There are moments one has to pause and wonder if it is reminiscent of similar writing in the past and then realise it would be unfair to compare The Many to any other writing. Wyl Menmuir’s style is wholly original, it grips one with its exquisitely chiselled style to create a stunningly beautiful and memorable novel much like the Cornish coast is.’ —Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, Confessions of an avid bibliophile
‘I found myself totally gripped. The kind of book where you end it still wanting answers and yet are unsure of the questions. It’s a wonderful book and the first book I’ve finished this year that I immediately wanted to read again.’ —Information Overlord
‘A parable on ecological destruction, a commentary on monotony and parochialness, an obscure examination of sorrow, an investigation into the mysterious workings of the psyche – The Many is weird and disorienting, yes, but original and wonderful too.’ —On Art and Aesthetics
‘Paperback of the Week It would be wrong to give away the precise reasons for his protagonist’s state, but as Menmuir’s allegory becomes decipherable, it is increasingly affecting, and the moment when we understand how the bay and its darkly looming ships might be the warped echo of an earlier, shattering scene is one of great power.’ —Stephanie Cross, The Observer
‘He deserves 10 out of 10 when it comes to the creation of atmosphere, and Menmuir can certainly write… A writer to watch.’ —The Independent
‘If it is possible to describe a book as being rich on spare detail then The Many is it, like a stock reduced to its very essence, and I suspect it was this lack of extraneous waffle and digression in the company of Wyl Menmuir's beguiling writing style that grabbed my attention and kept me wedded to this novel in the days immediately after Port Eliot festival.’ —Dovegreyreader
‘An intriguing, evocative and formally ambitious debut.’ —Luke Brown, Financial Times
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