Seven Steeples by Sara Baume

Shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2022

Such a gentle book where nothing really happens but that is sort of the point. Bell and Sigh have decided to move, with their two dogs, to a remote cottage and effectively cut themselves off. The cottage has been close to a nearby mountain for decades, and the couple are told that from the summit they can see seven standing stones, seven schools and seven steeples. The book records their first seven years in the cottage and describes the landscape in which they live in beautiful detail and with such poetry that several times, I had to stop because the author had made me see something that I thought I knew in a different light – for example when she describes the way snow thaws on fields it is ‘as if fat chalk lines had been drawn around the perimeter’. Each chapter is a year and each chapter takes us through the specific seasons and months. Chapter one describes January, February until we get to chapter seven and December. As time goes on, Bell and Sigh withdraw from their former lives and we see a steady deterioration of their house and a merging of their selves. You never really get a sense of the couple, there is no dialogue – the landscape, the elements are the stars in this book. A beautiful novel.


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