My book review of 'A Flat Place' by Noreen Masud

by Noreen Masud
A Flat Place
by Noreen Masud

Noreen Masud grew up in Pakistan where an early memory is seeing a flat field near Lahore from the back of her father's car.

Living in Britain, still coming to terms with her unhappy childhood, she realises that flat lands unlock her emotions. So, as she explores new places with their potency and emptiness, she comes to accept and deal with some of the traumas of her past.

This is a slim book full of powerful and evocative descriptions of the natural landscape interwoven with very personal emotional and psychological discoveries. The author describes how she seeks to find her place in a world where she always feels the outsider.

It's a puzzling book, really. I came away with more questions than answers regarding the troubled and unstable childhood that has led to Noreen being diagnosed as having complex post-traumatic stress disorder. But her descriptions of growing up with a domineering Pakistani father and a Scottish mother were compelling. 

Born in Pakistan, Noreen was brought back to the UK as a child but found that she couldn't shake off the painful memories of her early years and she didn't feel that she fitted in to her new school and community. 

She is now a lecturer and this book was initially conceived as her exploration of the flat landscapes of Britain through poetry, folklore and history. But her travels to Ely, Orford Ness and Shingle Street in Suffolk, Morecombe Bay, Newcastle Moor and Orkney revealed more about her inner landscape. 

She shares what she learns about these places, wisdom from her therapist, and her observations on the British psyche and attitudes, prejudice and entitlement.

There's a lot in this book and the writing about the landscape is mesmerising.

Date of this review: April 2023
Book publication date: 27th April 2023