Review: Landfall – the debut novel by Helen Gordon

‘Sometimes… she was surprised by how long she’d been living in London… where, Alice had been convinced, the important parts of life were happening. London was a place where she’d find conversations about things rather than people, a place where art and culture triumphed over the dull biology of suburban existence. Now every year she had to admit that it felt less and less like the imaginary city of her fervid teenage dreams .’

Helen Gordon’s debut novel Landfall was published by Fig Tree last month. In the book, her heroine, 34-year-old Alice, has ex-boyfriends who can be summed up in phrases like ‘Callum was one of those men of a certain haircut who gravitated towards the east of the city’ and lives in a warehouse conversion with a flatmate called Isabel who restocks their cupboards with tins of Spam: ‘recession chic’. But all is not what it seems – when the respected art magazine that Alice works for shuts down she heads to the southeastern suburbs to  housesit for her parents, abandoning her career and her friends in the city…

With its striking cover, cute author pic, Alice’s vague relationships and flakey friends, Landfall might seem somehow familiar, but the plot quickly metaphormorphoses from an urban unravelling into something much more contemplative and unpredictable.

By stepping out of the heady spin of her London life, Alice embarks on a kind of parallel/’what if?’ existence which is revealed in a crisp, surprising and beautiful fashion (and I can’t say much more without giving it away!).

Helen’s definitely a very interesting and slightly mysterious writer and Landfall‘s take on how we choose to live quietly raises questions around what we value and respect in ourselves and other people. There’s also a strand in the book about Britishness and girl guiding which is worth mentioning because of course Phoebe is a Brownie leader and we were both girl guides! In the book Alice’s girl guiding past and connection to the natural world seems to signify a wholesomeness and stability that’s missing from her other life and it’s also a link to her childhood (it’s not everyday that the girl guides make it into a novel – special occasion).

I’ll be posting a Q&A with author Helen Gordon tomorrow and you can watch her read an extract from Landfall below:

The following two tabs change content below.
Co-editor and co-founder of Pamflet //
About anna-marie:

Co-editor and co-founder of Pamflet //

Find all posts by anna-marie | Visit Website


"Vogue loves...Indie mags: Hogarthian graphics and modern feminism from Pamflet"

"It makes me feel less despair to know that somewhere deep inside the Jordanization of modern Britain there are still a few angry feminists out there." Zadie Smith

"Pamflet is the photocopy-quality soapbox for two young, sarky post-feminists from London who want women’s rights and the right to wear pretty things, and want it, like, yesterday." Sunday Times Style

"They’re funny and honest and write about fashion with feminism so I’m obviously all over it." Tavi