Friday 29 September 2023

Native Soil by Sarah Watkinson


This new novel from poet scientist Sarah Watkinson merges a romantic tale with environmental concerns.

Recently widowed, Olivia has used the legacy left by her late husband to purchase a farm in the Yorkshire Dales, and aims to fulfil their shared dream to create a sustainable farm that respects local culture.

She comes down from her farm in Yorkshire to see Andrew Bamberg, a well-respected scientist and celebrity presenter of Invisible Wildlife, giving a presentation on soil microbes at the Natural History Museum in London.

Andrew is researching the importance of healthy soil ecology to the success of farming and the conservation of nature, but faces huge pressures within his University department, which is dominated by people who want to make money from GM crops. He gets the sack, which is the impetus he needs to start working on soil microbiology at Olivia's farm., allowing him to take "microbiome research into real landscapes."

This novel has a real sense of place, with well observed details, whether that is the children in London's Natural History Museum

"They fingered science-fiction plastic dinosaurs, these little inheritors of mammalian supremacy, each
child about the size of one of the Diplodocus’s vertebrae."

 or the flora of the Yorkshire Dales:

 "Underfoot the soaked turf was close and even, finely textured with the shapes of tiny leaves—clover, thyme, burnet, eyebright and gold patches of moss."

Though it focuses on the relationships between the main characters, the novel also looks at the complex of relationships between politicians, academics, farmers that become involved in any attempt to get an agricultural research project going. Details on topics such as business planning for the farm, looking after sheep or GM technology are included without slowing the story down. The reader is prompted to think about priorities, as one character says: 

"So, we pay for a moon shot but can’t afford to catalogue the living things on the planet."

The engrossing story is peopled with convincing characters - it's an indication of how well Olivia's character is drawn that I actually fretted over whether she was moving too quickly in the relationship, convinced that she would be disappointed. You will of course need to read the novel to find out whether my concerns were correct!  

 Native Soil by Sarah Watkinson, published (6 October 2023) by Moore and Weinberg.

ISBN: 979 8 9854286 3 6   Paperback   304 pages RRP: £16.99   October 2023

Moore & Weinberg Publishing:    

Available through bookshops and internet booksellers (Also available as an ebook)


Disclaimer: I received a free e-book of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 


Sarah Watkinson  was recently the inaugural poet in residence at the University of Oxford's Wytham Woods. You can find out more about that work in this inspiring, short video:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Sounds wonderfully interesting. I’ll order an ebook.