Orlam by PJ Harvey review – musician’s vision of a curious childhood

Set in a magical realist outpost of the West Country, the singer-songwriter’s novel-in-verse delights in Dorset dialect and folklore

A novel-in-verse written in dense Dorset vernacular, Orlam is a curious and enchanting thing. Like a dark poetic almanac, it charts, month by month, a year in which its heroine, nine-year-old Ira-Abel Rawles, leaves behind the innocence of her childhood.

Orlam takes the reader by the hand, with each poem laid out opposite its “standard” translation and an abundance of footnotes to illuminate a hoard of folklore. This doubling slows down the reader who cares to be slowed, allowing them to puzzle out the dialect words and the way they change the poems.

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