By Lulu Allison
Jesse and Isolde, a boy and a woman, linked across time and the feral fields of wild England.
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Food production has moved overseas. The countryside is empty and once again wild. The rural economy has collapsed and people have no choice but to move to the cities. The population drifts away, towns and villages are abandoned. It isn’t dystopian, but it is further down the wrong road.
Jesse is eight. His family, moved on once by the sea flooding their coastal home, try to cling to their livelihoods in a small village. Soon, there is no work left; the family make the same necessary choice as so many others and a new life begins in London.
Decades pass. Isolde, now in her thirties, grew up in a children’s home that made her tough, resilient and uncertain. Her life is stalled, happiness elusive. She decides, finally, to learn about herself, and the formative event in early childhood - the death of her mother in a terrorist attack. She begins by visiting her mother’s killer in prison, to discover why it was that Stella died, crushing the body of her small daughter as she bled out on a city street so many years before.
In the prison, Isolde discovers that her mother’s death wasn’t as grimly straightforward as she had believed. To learn more, she decides she must head out of the city to find a group of off-grid idealists, New Agrarians living self-sufficiently on a farm somewhere in the Suffolk countryside. She leaves London on foot, walking the abandoned A12, sheltering in houses with buddleias growing through broken windows, faded carpets shot with bindweed, foxes in the dining rooms.
She meets Lee, a young runaway from one of the White Towns, white nationalist settlements that scatter the country like a dangerous rash. Isolde takes Lee under her wing and together they travel on to find the farm. Lee, who wears a ribbon around his neck to hide the tattoo of his provenance, is sheltered by the group from the threat of his family, bent on taking him back. Isolde’s past, the looping connection between her and Jesse, and the possibility of a different future is revealed.
The book has a chorus, the dreamy herd voice of feral cows, who are impatient with humans for their cruelty and lack of ability to find contentment, but they watch over Jesse, Isolde and Lee with benevolent care, understanding their lives as part of a bigger story that ravels and unravels endlessly over time.
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Lulu Allison grew up in a small village in the Chilterns. She did an illustration degree at St Martin’s School of Art and a fine-art M.A at the University of Brighton, where she still lives. She has exhibited in group and solo shows, worked as a gallery educator and arts facilitator. Her art practice consisted predominantly of site-specific installation and lens-based work. She has also worked as a cleaner, an art teacher, a scuba-diving instructor, and a maker of spectacle hinges in a small factory in Munich.
She came to writing accidentally whilst undertaking what she thought was an art project, unexpectedly discovering what she should have been doing all along. That art project became her first novel, Twice the Speed of Dark, published by Unbound in 2017. Salt Lick is her second novel, and she is working on a third, inspired by the Thomas Mann novel, Doctor Faustus. Its current title is The Model Village, an Opera in Three Acts.
The economic decline of the countryside slid in first to the fields and farmlands, then to the villages, the market towns. Workforces and wage offers no longer matched and so the workers disappeared. For a while, for the well-heeled, little changed. Marshal kept up his flatteringly matey friendships with the wealthy of the parish. The men, encountering their own physicality only in the pampered confines of a gym, were drawn to his way of treating them as casually manly equals. All customers spoke of his impeccable reputation for quality. Though increasingly, at the golf clubs and spas, people muttered about the economic climate. The gin and tonics were knocked back between head shakes and bluster, bitter soliloquies about betrayal. Hand-in-fist together, planning national strategies that best served them, the rural wealthy and the landed gentry were outraged to discover that they no longer had the ear of government.
- 21st May 2020 The Cow Chorus is ready to roll.
I am so delighted that Salt Lick is funded. I am thankful to many people and have been blown away by the support. Thank you. I hope that I can do it justice, that you will come to feel proud of having your names listed in the book as a supporter and that you will enjoy reading Satl Lick when you get your copy. (There is still time to add yourself to that list if you would like to.)
I have a…27th April 2020 Newsletter
Folks, if any of you would like to sign up to an irregular, occasional newsletter that comes direct, please take a look at the kind of thing I send out here:
You can sign up at the bottom of the form. I will be sending out free short stories to subscribers soon.
Thank you for your support of Salt Lick, it really…6th April 2020 The Magic Bundle - New Pledge Level and other news.
I am thrilled to be able to offer a new pledge level to back Salt Lick that includes these utterly beautiful and very appropriate cow rings made by one of my favourits artist/jewellers Frances Boyle. I already have one of my own given to me at Christmas, it feels like my good luck charm. And now I have secured the last three to offer as pledge rewards. In the bundle are some hand-printed cow cards…28th March 2020 All still here - apart and together
It's time to pop my head, however tentatively, back over the parapet. And I am very happy to say that I have a piece published today on the Memoirist site. It's about my grandfather, pictured above, and the strange uncertainty when this irrascible, bold and imposing man became more gentle and lost. I hope you may enjoy reading it. There are lots of great essays on the site,…17th February 2020 Other Unbounders #1 - Tom Ward
“What I love most is the idea that leaving London to go into the countryside seems like stepping beyond the barriers, into this quasi-dangerous world.” - Tom Ward.
Tom Ward is the author of The Lion and the Unicorn, one of the Unbound projects I was delighted to support with a pledge. Tom noticed that our two books have some similar themes, as can be seen from the quote above, so we decided…31st January 2020 Booty for backers
I am delighted that Salt Lick is now 1/3 funded. To clebetrate I've given all backers 1/3 off everything in my Etsy shop Seventy Seven Seas. If you'd like to benefit from this offer, just pledge for Salt Lick before Monday when the offer expires.
Seventy Seven Seas is full of icons, household gods, charms and curious anatomies. Everything is hand made from recycled or waste materials. And…21st January 2020 Thank yous
I have just sent out thank you messages to all those I can reach who have backed Salt Lick. The response has been so good and I am really delighted so wanted to convey that to all of you who made it happen.
I don't have a way to directly contact everyone so here are the last ones to round it off! You are welcome to contact me so that I have your email or Twitter handle, but of course, Unbound don…16th January 2020 Salt Lick is on the Starting Blocks
Welcome to the page for Salt Lick. I’m delighted that Unbound have agreed to publish my second book and look forward to making lots of new connections with readers on the way.
To help you get to know the book here are ten things about it.
1. The first spark was an image of a man in prison thinking about the inside of his body.
2. When writing I…
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