By Benjamin Myers


Under the Rock is a book that brings together stories local to the Calder Valley, Yorkshire and the surrounding area. Some are natural history, but most are anthropological or mythical.

The author writes about his move from London to a cottage under Scout Rock in the Valley. Whilst the local history is fascinating if you live in or know the area, it may not be a slant on history that you’d like to read about your beloved places.

This is a book about death and despair.

The colours of the cover are bright and optimistic, the blurb is very cryptic (which seems to be a growing trend), and my skim read of the introduction in the book shop didn’t indicate that the book would be quite so bleak.

In hindsight, I missed some signals. The author’s last book is called The Gallows Pole. If I’d read the reviews inside the front cover, I’d have learnt that the book is dark.

If you like gothic writing and Yorkshire this is the perfect book for you.

If you love Yorkshire and aren’t really into death and despair, perhaps give it a miss. The author finds himself in some of Yorkshire’s best-loved places: on moors, under waterfalls, at the tops of valleys; he finds some beauty here, yet mostly he seeks out death and sadness.

The morbidity of the endless quest to unearth the most devastating aspects of every place, the determination to go about the place shadowed by a self-imposed black cloud, constant discussions of death, suicide, disease, and hardship may interest some, but I found it tiring.

There’s a lot in the book about Ted Hughes, the poet who was married to Sylvia Plath. If you’re not a fan of his work (or haven’t heard of him), you probably won’t find the intricate details about his life particularly engaging.

Me and this book weren’t meant to be. I’ve just moved to Yorkshire and to me it represents opportunity, nature, and happiness. I’m interested to know about some of the gloomier aspects of its history, but in measure alongside the good. I persevered through the book because the descriptive language is at times magical (although at other times feels as if it’s trying too hard), but in many ways I wish I hadn’t.

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