James Clarke, Sanderson’s Island


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Thomas Speake comes to London to look for his father but finds Sanderson instead, a larger-than-life TV presenter who hosts ‘midweek madness’ parties where the punch is spiked with acid. There Speake meets Marnie and promises to help her find her adoptive child, who has been taken by her birth mother to live off-grid in a hippie commune in the Lake District.

Published 2023

Hardback: 320 pages

ISBN: 9781788163538

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Forced to lie low after a violent accident, Speake joins Sanderson on a tour of the Lake District, where he’s researching a book to accompany his popular TV series, Sanderson’s Isle. Fascinated by local rumours about the hippies, Sanderson joins the search for their whereabouts. Amid the fierce beauty of the mountains, the cult is forming the kind of community that Speake – a drifter who belongs nowhere – is desperate to find but has been sent to betray.

This is the follow up to James Clarke’s Betty Trask Prize-winning debut novel, The Litten Path. It is filled with gorgeous nature writing of the urban and the rural, and its portrayal of the moment when British society was unsettled and transformed by the counterculture of the 1960s is visionary and electrifying.

‘Intriguing and unsettling … [Clarke] has a terrific gift for the uncomfortable and threatening scene as the novel cartwheels its way to a conclusion both spectacular and sordid’ — Alex Clark, Times Literary Supplement 

‘Off-kilter, eerie, defiantly awkward: there’s little else like it right now’ — Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail

‘Freewheeling, vivid, and intensely imagined, Sanderson’s Isle creates a portrait of a nation – but what a portrait is offered up here by James Clarke, and what a nation… although set 50 years and more ago, Sanderson’s Isle has a decidedly contemporary flavour: it is a letter of love to another England, one that has long been marginalised, brutalised and effectively silenced’ — Irish Times

‘Much literary fiction of recent years has erred towards minimalism: little action, few characters, story replaced by mood, dialogue replaced by thought. Manchester-born James Clarke’s third novel, Sanderson’s Isle, is a raucous, Technicolor scream against this trend … If it feels gratuitous, that’s only because of the lethargic narratives we’ve become used to’ — Sunday Times

James Clarke grew up in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire. His debut novel The Litten Path won the 2019 Betty Trask Prize. Hollow in the Land, a set of inter-connected short stories, appeared in 2020. He lives in Manchester.

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