A dead friend, a lost lover and a clutch of mysteries from Jonathan Kellaway’s youth in Cornwall and Italy in the late 1960s come back to haunt him when he is tasked with discovering why there is a gaping hole in his employer’s records – and to tempt him with the hope that he may at last learn the truth about the tragedies of those years. It is a truth that has claimed several victims before. If he pursues it hard and long enough, he may only add himself to the list.
Words from Robert Goddard about the book
Anyone who’s visited the Eden Project – or simply driven through the area on the A30 heading for the beaches of the far west – will have seen the strange, white-capped moonscape that is Cornwall’s china clay country. The industry has left very visible scars, some of them oddly beautiful: vast, derelict drying sheds, cobalt blue lakes in abandoned pits, verdant green conical hills of overgrown waste. And naturally it’s shaped the lives of generations of local people who have worked in it.
Travelling round the china clay country, I felt instinctively it had that indefinable resonance that attracts me to a place as the setting for a novel. I knew then that it would have to be a novel spanning several decades, simply to reflect the scale and history of the industry, not to mention its international dimension: china clay is big business around the world.
But at its heart, in Cornwall, it’s also a family business. And so this novel is very much the story of a family, the Wrens of St Austell, and the tragedies that strike them as they struggle to adjust to changing times. Those tragedies appear at first sight to be nothing more than the vagaries of fate. But the story’s central character, Jonathan Kellaway, a man who has made a career and a good living out of china clay, is forced in the course of the novel to confront the frightening possibility that something altogether more sinister lies behind the misfortunes of the Wren family.
The span of the story gives us the opportunity to travel with Kellaway through more than forty years of his life, during which Wren & Co transforms itself from a small, uncompetitive company into thriving multinational Intercontinental Kaolins. But there is a price to be paid for that transformation by people Kellaway knows and loves. Eventually, he will have to face the truth of what has happened to them – and to himself.
Journey with him from the heady days of his 1960s youth through to the terrible discoveries of his later years. Industries rise and fall and families with them. But some lost loves can be regained. And some defeats can be redeemed. Decide for yourself if you back Jonathan Kellaway to win through against the odds.
Wheal Martyn is a wonderful museum on the history of the China Clay Industry, based in Carthew near St Austell it is well worth a visit and makes a good base for exploring the area.
Imerys are now the largest China Clay Company following their buy out of English China Clay who in turn replaced ECLP. Rather like the book we see lots of smaller companies being enveloped by larger and larger conglomerations.
There are a good collection of reviews here but be warned some may contain plot spoilers.
Walking in the old clay tips can be a surreal experience, Old clay driers are hidden by vines and trees, more recent pits look like abandoned lunar colonies. In fact a couple of Doctor Who episodes were filmed in them. Follow this link for lots of great walks and cycle paths in the area.
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