Through childhood hopefulness, teenage delinquency, faded first love and middle-aged disillusionment, James Clarke’s extraordinary novel in stories takes us into the Hollow in the Land, a Lancashire valley no longer than ten miles end to end. If you’re born here, you’ll likely spend the rest of your life here, and even those who do make it beyond the bypass often find themselves drawn back. This is a place where the realities of regional decline and political indifference play out in people’s lives: in run-down pubs and sitting rooms, dead-end jobs and black-economy gigs, for-profit care homes, Traveller sites and abandoned warehouses. Clarke’s writing is unsentimental but retains a fierce empathy for the lives it is describing. Through a wide range of characters at every stage of life, Clarke shows us how much of what we become is defined by where we are from.