Never Was – H. Gareth Gavin
Part hallucination, part queer bildungsroman, Never Was is a beautifully strange novel about grief, addiction and working-class masculinity, taking us from a limbo of lost dreams to a small salt-mining town and exploring the way identity is both inherited and re-invented. Daniel sits on a clifftop in the aftermath of a party at Fin’s mansion, looking out over a junky sea. Daniel’s not sure why they’re there, or who Fin is, even though Fin seems to be somebody famous.
To find out, Daniel must tell Fin the story of their childhood, going back to a small salt-mining town in The North, a visit from their now-estranged cousin Crystal, and the life and losses of their salt-miner father, Mika. Taking us from bus shelters to playgrounds to McDonalds, from the depth of a salt mine to a nightclub toilet, Daniel describes their world of soap operas, sunglasses, newspaper clippings and Princess Diana, steering Fin through the events that led up to The Great Subsidence, when their town and the mine that sustained it collapsed. As Daniel tells their story, they come to learn they’re in a place called Never Was, a limbo for lost dreams and disappointments, a landfill for things that never came to be, but also a place of change and transition.
Dreamy, poignant, and revelatory, Never Was is a bold and inventive novel by an inimitable voice in literary fiction.