Malachy Tallack has written a fine novel. In The Valley at the Centre of the World he has created a unique and absorbing story. The title suggests that you may be entering the realm of science fiction but very quickly the true genre becomes apparent.

Tallack has used a powerful telescope to focus on an isolated, sparsely populated community in the Shetland Islands. There is a very particular landscape to be found here, with its unique wildlife, weather and people. There is in the descriptive writing about all of these, the evolving history of the land and inhabitants. And the questions are asked: who chooses to live and stay here; what type of people are they?

A complex layering underlies this apparently simple story. The past lives of the various characters are described interweaving past, present and future. The land, the place, seems unchanging, constant, timeless. Though change is everywhere, sometimes imperceptible, sometimes dramatic and obvious, individuals and their histories very much occupy the present, and become a history of the valley.

Sandy has moved to the valley with partner Emma. They are renting a property owned by her parents, David and Mary. Emma grew up in the valley, moved away, but felt the pull of home, and tows Sandy back with her. Yet, at the start of the novel, their relationship has broken down and it is Emma who leaves and Sandy who stays. Although David and Mary have lived here a long time, change threatens not only their present, but the future of their community.

The Valley at the Centre of the World is a wonderful, meaningful exploration of the inner and outer world that surrounds us all. In shining a bright light on a corner of Shetland, Malachy Tallack reveals himself as a perceptive, insightful and very fine writer indeed.