You will find Fellside somewhere on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It is not the kind of place you’d want to end up, but it’s where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.
It’s a place where even the walls whisper. And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess. Fellside will be the death of you – if it doesn’t save you.
Fellside is the second novel by author M. R. Carey, his first being The Girl With All The Gifts. Set on the Yorkshire Moors, Fellside is about child-murderer Jess Moulson who is admitted to the Fellside prison to complete her sentence for her crimes. Due to the guilt she experiences at having killed someone without meaning to, Jess embarks upon a hunger strike in a quest to rid herself from this world and the guilt that eats away at her. However, one night she is visited by a little boy, the boy she murdered, who gives her a reason to live and to find out the truth about what really happened.
Jess Moulson is a troubled character. Following the death of her parents, Jess was prescribed meds that would help her to cope during this troubled time in her life but then became addicted to the fog that hovered over and allowed her to trudge through her day to day life without any feelings and emotions. Eventually, due to a guy, she starts on the hard stuff – heroin. It is during one of these moments of addiction that her whole life comes crashing down around her. Jess doesn’t deny that she has an addiction, it is something that stays with her throughout the beginning of the novel when she is dosed up at the prison during the course of her hunger strike; it helps with the pain, merges day and night, and the concept of time fades away. She is a guilty person, someone that is sensitive to those around her and this shows in the ways that she interacts with the child as well as with her Aunt Brenda as she tries to protect them: Alex, from his parents who fight and shout all the time, sometimes rounding on him, and Brenda from Jess, trying to persuade Brenda that she should put her love for Jess aside and let her live with her guilt.
Jess truly transforms over the course of the novel. Though she always feels guilty about what she has done, she begins to feel like she is atoning for her sins by setting herself on a path that will do more good. Her situation isn’t an easy one in this respect; she faces many different types of people within Fellside – some of them want to hurt her, some of them want to help her, and she must make choices during her time at Fellside on who to trust and what actions to take. She grows a tough skin, becoming more resilient and understanding what resources she has to hand. She’s quite cunning in that respect, getting out of situations you’re entirely sure she’ll get stuck in.
Fellside is an altogether different novel to that of M. R. Carey’s first novel The Girl With All The Gifts. It’s more realistic in its storyline, taking on themes and politics frequently highlighted in the scenarios that Jess is put into. But there are also some fantastical elements in relation to death, the afterlife, guardian angels and so on. There are many themes throughout but, the one that stood out the most for me, was the difference between right and wrong. Much of the narrative focuses on how Jess’s actions will affect her in future scenarios but also on how doing the right thing will help ease her guilty conscious and set her on the right path, as opposed to doing the wrong thing which would set her back in her quest to move forward in her situation.
It’s hard to point out what I enjoyed most about the novel, especially seeing as I find it hard to say anything without giving anything away. It was really well written and thought out, and the cause of Jess and her conflict spans the majority of the narrative showing continuation and change throughout. I found myself frequently drawn back to the book whenever I put it down in the hopes of finding out more and uncovering the truth.