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Winner of the David Higham Prize for Fiction, shortlisted for the Hawthornden Prize and the Yorkshire Post Fiction Prize

 

The world of the factory has been at the heart of modern Britain yet has seldom appeared in fiction. John Harvey’s first novel evokes the world of the heavy engineering works with such affection, humour and poignancy that it becomes at once a poem, and an anatomy, of modern industrial life.

 

Around Foreman Clyde, in the overheated, crowded workshop, the charge-hands bustle, the platers cut steel, joke, make ructions and treat the labourers like dirt; an apprentice is caught in an accident; a one-man strike tries to hold the firm to ransom; while the hierarchy of managers contemplate conflicting schemes. All wheel towards the crisis, in which the factory and everyone in it find they are in the grip of a giant, unseen hand.

'An admirable first novel… pre-eminently a book for the times.'  THOMAS HINDE, Sunday Telegraph

 

‘How it holds, how it grips the attention… What we get here is a feeling about work… put across with a poetic realism… First rate.’  Morning Star

 

‘Not merely unusual but also very good – precise, subtle, authoritative and unexpectedly exciting.’  HERMIONE LEE, Observer

 

‘Impressive… John Harvey has Zola’s ability to describe physical work so that you can almost hear the beating iron heart of the workshop.’  Listener

 

‘Harvey’s theme in his first novel is penetrating, his sense of drama impeccable and his language powerful.’  Time Out

 

‘Conveys individual and collective feelings with a ring of authority… the factory is almost a physical experience, like being battered aboard a Jack London whaler in a blind typhoon.’  Guardian

 

‘A prose which is accomplished, poetic, incisive.’  A.S. BYATT, Times

 

'The novel's people are alive in a prose of precise passion.'  CHRISTOPHER RICKS, Sunday Times

Editions: Collins, 1979; Fontana, 1980. To be reissued by Holland House Books in paperback and kindle 2019-20.

© 2019 by John Harvey, jrh49@cam.ac.uk 

Novelist, art critic, literary critic and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge

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