With a flavour of a short story compilation with many characters to keep the mind active, Nothing But Grass is Will Cohu’s literary crime novel that meanders through various eras. Grounded in the landscapes of Lincolnshire this is a novel of compelling characters, whose stories weave across three centuries. In the same vein as Margaret Atwood, who successfully entwines multiple strands of a story into the overarching tale, Cohu tries but is not quite there whose novel at times does feel more like that of the short story.
When Norman Tanner kills his workmate on a cold February morning, he believes he’s got away with murder. However, Norman isn’t aware of the workmate’s girlfriend, or the child that will come back to haunt him; and how he is caught up in a tale that stretches as far back as a Victorian summer. For some in the village of Southby and its nearby majestic estate, man is the ruler of his fate, and the world is laced with meaning; for others there is nothing but grass.
Born in Yorkshire in 1964, Will Cohu was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, from 1992 he freelanced as writer, editor and journalist, mostly for the Daily Telegraph. His previous books include Urban Dog (2001) and Out of the Woods (2007). He has been twice short-listed for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Award. His memoir, The Wolf Pit, was published in 2012 and shortlisted for the PEN/Ackerley Prize. He lives in Lincolnshire, where he drew his inspiration for this intricate story.
t all feels a bit muddled, the structure, and there are a severe shortage of characters that you actually like and empathise with but they are incredibly interesting and mostly enthuse you to read on. Ted is integral to the novel, stands out from the rest as the only one that you feel you’ve taken this journey with. With a strong sense of place, Nothing But Grass is set in the Lincolnshire Wolds, which is an area strangely neglected by literature. Historical mysteries underpin the bulk of the narrative which moves from the times of Thatcher to a more present day.
Cohu excels at describing the dark landscapes and autumn evenings of Lincolnshire, which is somewhat anticipated with his knowledge of the area. However, he does immerse the reader into the world he creates, even if that world is a chapter. His writing is stunning but this book perhaps should have been a set of short stories, as he does not carry this off quite with the same finesse as Margaret Atwood.
Nothing But Grass is out and published by Vintage Books.