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The Valley at the Centre of the World

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  180 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Shetland: a place of sheep and soil, of harsh weather, close ties and an age-old way of life. A place where David has lived all his life, like his father and grandfather before him, but where he abides only in the present moment. A place where Sandy, a newcomer but already a crofter, may have finally found a home. A place that Alice has fled to after the death of her husba ...more
Paperback, Limited Edition Proof, 292 pages
Published May 3rd 2018 by Canongate
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3.94  · 
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 ·  180 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whether we live in a heavily populated metropolis or a sparsely populated and isolated valley, the Centre of OUR World is our family, friends, and the environment we live and work in. Malachy Tallack has written a great book capturing various facets of life and presented them in a small remote community in the Shetland Islands: love and rejection, happiness and despair, achievement and failure, generosity and greed, life and death. The valley in many respects is a microcosm of the global
I’d previously enjoyed Malachy Tallack’s two nonfiction books, Sixty Degrees North and The Undiscovered Islands. In his debut novel he returns to Shetland, where he spent some of his growing-up and early adult years, to sketch out a small community and the changes it undergoes over about ten months. Sandy has lived in this valley for three years with Emma, but she left him the day before the action opens. Unsure what to do now, he sticks around to help her father, David, butcher the lambs. After ...more
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
With many thanks to Canongate via NetGalley for the opportunity to read this.

We follow a handful of characters over one year, the people living in five houses on a road in a valley in rural Shetland. These people have been drawn to this place for varying personal reasons - on a wave of optimism for a fresh start, as a refuge from a difficult world, as a cynical way of making money - apart from the central character David, who has lived here all his life, working the family croft, and never want
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
In a remote valley on the west coast of Shetland, Sandy takes his first tentative steps in crofting as his home life falls apart.

Read by Steven Robertson

Abridged by Robin Brooks

Producer: Eilidh McCreadie

Malachy Tallack's debut novel is a quiet yet powerful study of contemporary rural Scotland that asks what remains when a way of life vanishes. Set on the rugged west coast of Shetland, in a community only ever a few steps away from extinction, Tallack's novel ta
At the age of ten, Malachy Tallack moved to Shetland with his family. Now an award-winning singer-songwriter, journalist and author, he has written extensively about life in these remote islands. Tallack has also published two travel books : Sixty Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home, an exploration of lands along the sixtieth parallel (which also crosses through the Shetland Isles) and The Un-Discovered Islands: An Archipelago of Myths and Mysteries, Phantoms and Fakes, about mythi ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2018
Shetland has a bleak beauty about it, scoured by storms that roll in from the Atlantic, it shapes the landscape as much as it does the people that live there. For some islanders, it is the only place that they have known and they would never leave it, but the population in the scattering of houses in a valley is slowly ebbing away. David, a third generation crofter, live in one of the houses in the valley. It is a place that he would never leave; the island is as much a part of his DNA as the sk ...more
The Valley at the Centre of the World is a quiet, introspective novel about the lives of the inhabitants of a very small valley in Shetland. And I thought it was beautiful. This won't be for everyone, but I loved it.

Four things I liked:
+ The SETTING! Probably an obvious one, but it definitely deserves to be mentioned first. The valley felt so real to me. It was rugged and weather-worn and authentic, and I could smell the dirt and feel the wind on my face. It was so wonderfully described. And I w
Mitch Karunaratne
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This was such a brilliantly told story of the entwined lives of a group of people in a small valley on the Shetland Islands. Having just returned from the islands - I may be biased as to the amazingness of how well the author doesn't just take you to the valley, but you feel the dirt and salt air, you hear the sounds and dialect and you can sense the layers of story and meaning that is laid down in the physical earth. Each of the characters was drawn so well, it created the sense that you knew a ...more
Silas House
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable debut. I became so invested in these characters lives and their profound connections to their place in the world. Beautiful prose from a major new talent.
Andy Weston
This was a Guardian Longlist NTB nomination and appealed to me chiefly due to the setting of the Shetland Islands. The story is a slice of Shetland life, more specifically in a farming valley of two or three houses. As an insight into the way of life it works well, but it is not plot driven, and I expect rather like the islands, has a slow pace to it.
Msg of the dialogue is written with the Shetland dialect or accent. Though there is a translation of key words given at the start of the novel, it
Breakaway Reviewers
Shetland is a place of sheep, soil, harsh weather, close ties and an age-old wary life. It is a place in which David has lived all of his life and a place where Sandy and Alice may have found a home. The story tells the transition for a small valley in Shetland, as the death of the oldest inhabitant Maggie, causes the others to worry what the future may hold with few young members of the community.

I really enjoyed the depth of the description of the setting, with such beautiful scenery it made
Sarah Furger
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really a lovely novel. Tallack writes his characters and this setting with a tenderness and respect I wasn’t expecting to gut me emotionally but it did. I haven’t read his nonfiction books yet, but I’ll certainly add them to my list.
Jayne Tucker
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, honest and realistic portrayal of lives both simplistic and complex. Reading it life enhancing. Loved it.
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
Favorite excerpt: "The thing he felt ending was not just one person, or even one generation; it was older, and had, in truth, been ending for a long time … It was a chain of stories clinging to stories, of love clinging to love. It was an inheritance he did not know how to pass on."
Fiona M
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just listened to and in this case my best books of the year so far. The first minister mentioned she was reading this book set in Shetland. I don’t normally read on recommendations from politicians but the author’s name rang a bell and the setting was Shetland. So I bought the book.
And it was so worth it. I have met the author at a Mainstreet Trading event for his non fiction and I do remember him being asked if he would writer fiction. From memory he said he would need to find a story seems tha
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read Sixty Degrees North, Malachy Tallack’s memoir of searching for the meaning of home along the 60th parallel, I was looking forward to his first foray into fiction, The Valley at the Centre of the World.

A bit like his first book, The Valley at the Centre of the World deals with issues of community, identity, and place, and how they are all connected. The valley in question sits on Shetland’s west coast, battered by winter storms and a declining population, one whose future as home to a
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This novel follows a small community in one valley in Shetland. David has lived in the valley all his life, but other residents come and go, for a variety of reasons. It is a simple premise and there isn't an exciting plot line, but it is well written and easy and enjoyable to read.

The book starts with a glossary of terms for the Shetland dialect. The dialogue is written in this way throughout. You don't have to keep referring to the glossary, you can get the gist of what is being said. I though
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Valley at the centre of the world is exactly that - a single valley with just five houses clinging to The Road that runs above and parallel to 'The Burn', the waterway that runs to the sea. The use of 'The' is intentional: there is only one. In its harsh but beautiful isolation, there is a timelessness about The Valley, although people are coming and going. Older man David has lived there all his life, as did his father and grandfather before him. Although he does not consciously think of it ...more
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in an isolated valley on the Shetland Isles, this debut novel follows a small group of characters over a ten-month period of life in a small crofting community.
Whilst not a lot really 'happens', the story is all about the life of the valley and the interrelationships between the characters and how their past experiences have affected them now. Thus we have: David and Mary - David has lived in the valley all his life as have several generations of his ancestors, Mary is his loving and, occasi
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
I have to confess. I have an interest here. I love visiting Shetland. My grandmother was born and brought up in Dunrossness although the family moved to mainland Scotland in the 1920s when she was in her teens, but I still have relatives who live in Shetland.

I found the book an enjoyable and easy read about the inhabitants of one valley in Shetland over the course of almost a year - the ones who were rooted there, the ones who arrived and left, the ones who arrived and stayed a while. While it's
The blurb on the cover by Sara Baume convinced me to pick this book up. This is such a beautifully crafted story about being attached to the places we inhabit and the people who live in our immediate vicinity. A common saying is that we cannot pick our neighbors but sometimes things work out in a more positive manner. Yet this is not a story of neighbors signing kumbaya around the campfire as some of these characters are battling their own demons. It was difficult to not become attached to them ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book!

I should first thank my book-loving friends at Ullapool Book Festival for inviting author Malachy Tallack to the 2019 festival (May) and therefore posting about the book.

Without trying to make this post about me, I do want to say that I visited Shetland for the better part of a week in the fall of 1994. I loved it, and have always vowed to return. In reading this novel, I feel I have, if only in my mind.

One of the many things I found fascinating about Shetland was the dialect. It
Ignacio Peña
I found the dialogue to be inconsistent and, ultimately, a bit distracting. It's unfortunate to say, as this is perhaps one of the most central authorial choices on behalf of the writer; but the truth is that when I read Tallack's afterword on the choices he made with respect to the language, I genuinely wished I had read this at the very start of the novel, before diving into the story. I think it would have left me feeling a bit kinder to a lot of what I thought were frustrating dialogue choic ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A deceptively simple novel about deceptively simple people leading deceptively simple lives. In style and substance, the book plods along, telling us about the everyday moments (shearing sheep, making tea, digging ditches) of a small community in the Shetland Islands.

Many people would find this boring (I did in some parts). I found myself expecting more from the language itself, which was almost frustratingly straightforward for most of the book. But as I finished it, I realized that's one of th
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tallack's novel represents a significant step in his maturation as a writer. In this novel, he experiments with the petri-dish of a valley in the Shetlands, where farmers, writers, and the lost find themselves and each other. Aside from a very melodramatic romantic aspect to the plot's young protagonist, much of this is very well done, with the assortment of relationships presented sympathetically and yet with a real comprehension of tensions and class hostilities. The older residents of the val ...more
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars! This debut fiction novel by Malachy Tallack was an absorbing, vivid and contemplative story of the lives of a small group of residents of an isolated crofting valley on the western coast of Shetland. The interspersed Shetlandic dialect enhances the humanness of the characters and illuminates their values, relationships, hopes, dreams, fears and challenges in the rapidly changing world around them. The Valley at the Centre of the World reveals themes of tradition, community, nature, pe ...more
Ingrid Sharp
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such beautiful prose throughout the book that really brings the characters and landscape to life. I felt the pace was pretty slow moving in terms of plot because of the depth of characterisation perhaps but this added to creating a strong atmosphere and sense of the Valley. There were a couple of times it felt like you were on the edge of something happening but then the story just continued to meander along.

I'm in a privileged position to understand the dialect, but perhaps this was also to my
Kerry Swinnerton
Aug 07, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I struggled all the way through this book. I understand the author explaining the use of the Shetland dialect but it was disconcerting to have to translate all the time to get the feel of the story......which I found boring for a huge part. I kept wanting something to “happen” and then when it did happen nothing came of it.
I would have much preferred that the explanation of the use of the dialect was in a foreword rather than in an afterword, I don’t know that the story such as it was, would ha
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It took a while to get into, but once in, I was hooked. Not a lot happens in terms of significant events, but the story of a few people in a remote Shetland valley over a period of a few months is engrossing . The language just flows and the writing is so insightful. The use of the Shetland dialect in so much of the book adds to the atmosphere. By the end of the book I didn't have to think about what I was reading to understand what was being said. The transition from ...more
Jo-anne Atkinson
In a desolate corner of Shetland live a small community in danger of extinction. Young people move away and few take their place, the population is growing smaller and families are needed to bring life into the valley. For David, a lifelong resident, change is something he has observed over time. For Alice the valley is somewhere to escape after the death of her husband.

This is a gentle and spare book in which nothing really happens but the quality of the writing is enough. Tallack writes in a v
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Malachy Tallack has written two works of non-fiction – Sixty Degrees North and The Un-Discovered Islands – and a novel, The Valley at the Centre of the World. He won a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust in 2014, and the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2015. As a singer-songwriter he has released four albums and an EP, and performed in venues across the UK. He is from Shetland, and ...more