4.5 out of 5 stars
It is not long after the end of the Second World War and the country is still in the grip of post-war blues and rationing. Robert Appleyard has just turned sixteen and faces heading down the local pit as did his father and grandfather before him. It is not something that he fancies so he decides to head away from his home town of Durham and discover a little bit more of the world.
Slowly making his way across the northern landscape, walks the road and trackways doing days of work at smallholding and farms and helping out at houses that didn’t get their men back from the war. He slept in barns or under hedges or sheltered by his makeshift tent. He made do with food, apples from the places he passed and gifts from people that he met. He route took him past the horrors of war, twisted and burnt aircraft that showed the insignia of the common enemy. Until one day he reached the coast and the village of Robin’s Hood Bay.
He discovered her home at the end of the lane and it overlooked the sea, though people could no longer able to see it as she had let the scrub grow up. He stopped at the end and heard a dog growling and then she stood up from the garden and spoke to him. Her name was Dulcie and his life would never be the same again.
He helps by doing odd jobs around the place and she feeds him food that he has never even contemplated, let alone tasted. For someone who had come from ration book meals, the taste of lobster and wine was a revelation. They settle into a routine and as well as feeding his body she begins to work on his mind, bringing piles of books from her home to educate and stretch his mind and then she introduces him to poetry. Dulcie has a past that she is trying to forget and a lover who was taken from her. As their friendship deepens, she stretches Robert’s mind to make him see the world from a different perspective, slowly he teases her past out from her.
That distant stretch of sea where sky and water merge. It’s called the offing
This is another cracker from Myers. By placing together these two characters, who under normal circumstances would have been very unlikely to meet, he has created a tender story about the strength in a true platonic relationship. Dulcie was way ahead of her time and could also see a very different future for Robert than he envisaged. Coupled with this plot is Myers evocative writing about the land and seascape and natural world of this part of Yorkshire. I really liked the ending of the book. It is a very different book to the Gallows Pole, but like that one, he has a way of drawing you into the story and captivating you.