New novel: ‘The Woodcock’

It’s 1920s England, and the coastal town of Gravely is enjoying a fragile peace after the Great War. Jon Lowell, a naturalist who writes articles on the flora and fauna of the shoreline, and his wife Harriet lead a simple life, basking in their love for each other and enjoying the company of Jon’s visiting old school friend, David. But when an American whaler arrives in town with his beautiful red-haired daughters, boasting of his plans to build a pier and pleasure-grounds a half-mile out to sea, unexpected tensions and temptations arise.

As secrets multiply, Harriet, Jon and David must each ask themselves, what price is to be paid for pleasure?


‘Beautifully written – I could almost taste the salt.‘ — Carys Bray, author of A Song for Issy Bradley

‘A novel of shifting, silted landscapes and relationships laid bare, with quiet urgency The Woodcock reveals the complexities of desire, instinct and faith.’ — Eley Williams, author of The Liar’s Dictionary

‘An astonishing piece of literary ventriloquism – Smyth revisits the period novel with a contemporary sensibility and an incredible sense of place.‘ — Owen Booth, author of The All True Adventures (And Rare Education) of The Daredevil Daniel Bones

‘This is a funny and thoughtful novel. Sardonic sometimes, mordant at others, it is always witty, fast, and smart.‘ — Tim Dee, author of Greenery

‘Observing the consequences of the arrival of strangers through the salty prism of a small, northern English coastal town, Smyth has a naturalist’s eye for detail, and turns it here upon human nature. The Woodcock is beautiful and unsettling in equal measure.’ — Jon Dunn, author of Orchid Summer

‘The world Smyth evokes with his vibrant prose leaps off the page – every character lives and breathes, and beneath its ordinary surface, 1920s Gravely teems with beauty, complexity and mystery.’ — Jenn Ashworth, author of Fell

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