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The Crack Magazine

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A Flat Place by Noreen Masud

Sometimes parents make choices that seem to make sense when looked at in one way, but in another make no sense at all. Noreen Masud’s father, for instance, locks up his family so the noise and ‘chaos’ of Lahore doesn’t damage or spoil them, without realising this act of control is damaging them in ways he didn’t figure on. A Flat Place is about trying to emerge from that domestic prison and find some kind of hope in a world that’s constantly crushing difference, burnishing convention and encouraging you to believe ‘failure’ is a personal weakness. That some of this stuff is in a book that could be classified as nature writing is fairly unusual as is the fact that Noreen Masud, isn’t male, white or testing her moral and physical worth scaling a mountain or living off grid somewhere. A Flat Place isn’t a self-help manual (or a misery memoir) where nature inspires, but a compelling investigation about why flat places are a balm to a particular person’s severely traumatic childhood and adolescence, “I love places where there’s nothing. Where, like the flat fens of Cambridgeshire, it’s nowhere for miles. Just flowered verges and ploughed fields from horizon to horizon. It’s in these places that I feel able to breathe…”. Nature writing? Maybe, but for me Noreen Masud’s memoir is a superior kind of life writing, and however one describes it, one thing is certain, A Flat Place is an assured future classic.

A Flat Place – Noreen Masud - publ. Penguin - £10.99

Steven Long