Cynan Jones

Published: 2 November 2017
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 112 pages
ISBN: 9781783783861

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Published: 3 November 2016
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 112 pages
ISBN: 9781847088819

Ebook Available


Out at sea, in a sudden storm, a man is struck by lightning. When he wakes, injured and adrift on a kayak, his memory of who he is and how he came to be there is all but shattered. Now he must pit himself against the pain and rely on his instincts to get back to shore, and to the woman he dimly senses waiting for his return. With its taut narrative and its wincingly visceral portrait of a man locked in an uneven struggle with the forces of nature, this is a powerful new work from one of the most distinctive voices in British fiction.

About the author

Image of Cynan Jones

CYNAN JONES was born near Aberaeron, Wales in 1975. He is the author of three novels, The Long Dry (winner of a Betty Trask Award, 2007), Everything I Found on the Beach (2011), and The Dig (2014), a chapter of which was shortlisted for the 2013 Sunday Times/ EFG Private Bank Short Story Award. He is also the author of Bird, Blood, Snow (2012), the retelling of a medieval Welsh myth. More about the author


‘[Cove] packs a punch far above its weight... A gruelling, gripping read, a ragged desperate search for a safe haven... There's no slack here, every word counts in prose that's stripped back and pared down to something akin to poetry. It's Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea meets JC Chandler's maritime disaster film, All is Lost. Nature at its most brutal, and man at his most exposed, poised between 'myth'... and 'legend'’ Lucy Scholes



Cove is like some experiment in mortifying asceticism, an experiment so successful that every word has significance and the simplest line on the starkest page can slap you hard like a sudden wave as you try to land a kayak on a steep beach in a running swell, leaving you [...] struggling for a moment to catch your breath... It's hard not to be hyperbolic about this book. If someone told you that a Welshman had written a sort of Wales-set twenty-first-century homage to The Old Man and the Sea that somehow manages - in even fewer words - to be a bigger, more emotionally loaded book, you'd be forgiven for laughing. But you shouldn't laugh. You should buy Cove, and holding it very carefully, hunch yourself up over its pale pages, draw a deep breath, and begin to read...’

Cove is the latest and most accomplished of Jones's works. It once again proves Jones's formidable talent. The book is confusing and demanding and damning and everything and anything and nothing. Above all else, however, Cove is beautiful, all too beautiful’ Ioan Marc Jones

‘A book distilled and elemental even by Jones's standards. It's searing, unflinching, exquisitely written - for me, his best work yet’ Tom Bullough, author

‘A masterclass in concision, in trimming away everything extraneous until what remains is a short, stark, shock of a book where every word crackles with electricity... Jones' language shimmers with a suggestive poetry... The power of Jones' writing lies not in moments of shock and drama, but in the slow buildup of a dimly apprehended tension, felt in the pit of the stomach... It's in these moments of subtle horror that Cove truly grabs you’ Josh Philipps

‘A meditation on identity, security and memory - and the ways in which trauma corrodes these... a study of fear, isolation and disorientation’ Anna Girling

‘A narrative as stripped of detail as its protagonist is of his memories, which nonetheless proves curiously powerful’ Nick Rennison

‘After the scalpel-sharp prose of The Dig here Cynan Jones cuts into the language even deeper: in this new novel he pares down the prose to shining shards and crystalline phrases. Cove finds this master of concision on remarkable form, telling a sleek tale about one man and a boat which lingers hauntingly in the mind. At a time when novels are getting bigger and more bloated, this goes the other way - showing us how choice words in perfect order can expand the horizon well beyond a simple line’ Jon Gower

‘Arresting... Cynan Jones is a highly accomplished writer in whose hands such elemental raw materials turn strange and fugitive... Though his novels turn on sudden shocks, the real power of his prose lies in its slow accumulation of energy around dimly apprehended points of tension... Part of what's impressive about the book is that it holds its own. One might expect some level of allusiveness, an acknowledgement of literature's other lost sailors. But Jones's writing has a cool independent, aloof from others' words’ Alexandra Harris

‘Astonishing, here the story of a man getting lost at sea becomes a powerful, moving and exceptionally memorable story in about as few words as possible. Read it and then read it again’ John Owen

‘Charting a course somewhere between Life of Pi and Paul Kingsnorth's Beast, Cove is a minimal, occasionally mysterious, man-versus-the-elements fable... there's plenty under the surface of the terse, telegraphic prose... Cove repays attentive parsing’ Stephanie Cross

‘Cynan Jones [is] utterly brilliant. The writing is so delicate and cruel and insightful. I don't understand why no statues have been erected in his honour yet’ Eimear McBride

‘I found it hypnotically compelling, as exciting as it is meditative, and adored the pared down yet powerful, rippling, sensate writing. A terrific read’ Colin Barrett, author

‘I'll be popping this very short novel into several stockings this Christmas: it's one of the most haunting novels I've read in years. Jones's exquisitely turned sentences - more poetry than prose - force the reader to slow right down, confronting us with every tiny sinew of the man's determined efforts to survive. Jones is an uncompromising writer and the situation his protagonist faces is dire. Yet this is also a heartbreaking novel, alert to the ineffable mystery of man's aloneness in the natural world, but also sure-footed on the emotional ties that bind’ Claire Allfree, Books for Christmas

‘In a time when novels are getting more robust, replete with increasingly ostentatious, over-embellished writing, Cove comes as a breath of fresh air... In this slim novel Jones sketch[es] a formidable portrait of the fury of nature. In his visceral descriptions of the mighty sea, birds and fish, his stark, primal style is reminiscent of that of Ted Hughes' poetry. There is a cinematic thrill to his writing, which induces a sense of pulsating alarm in the reader... Cove is an extraordinary novel [and] a thrilling, immersive experience’ Rabeea Saleem

‘Intensely vivid... startlingly original... Jones's prose - concise, rhythmical and studded with arresting imagery - enacts the rocking motion of a boat at sea. A powerful study of human vulnerability and resilience’ Juanita Coulson

‘Jones plugs directly into the readers' nightmares with his fifth novel, an ultra-minimalist tale of an injured man adrift at sea in a wrecked fishing boat... pared back to the very essentials, there is not a word wasted in these short, sharp, epigraphic paragraphs that rival even Hemingway in their terseness... At only 95 pages of skeletal prose, it's as taut as trapped fishing-line, and possibly more effective when read in one sitting - though it may not be healthy to let your heart stop beating for that long’ James Robinson

‘Jones strips the story down to its elemental core and of it reads like a prose poem. His vivid descriptions allow us to feel the man's physical discomfort and flagging spirit... Cove is about the dangerous, unknowable rhythms of the sea... about devastation [...] love, loss, memory and the will to live... A haunting meditation on trauma and human fragility’ Lucy Popescu

‘Jones's brutally, beautifully distilled, almost incantatory language is entirely his own... an extraordinary novel that tugs on the ideas of home and homecoming, is full of scorchingly simple phrases [...] and is saturated with a stealthy symbolism concerning fathers and sons, man and God and the fathomless mysteries of the natural world. It's Jones's fifth book and, with its sure sense of the ineffable nature of things, speaks louder than many a novel of three times its length’

‘Jones's writing, although stripped back, is delicate and poetic... If Hemingway's prose resonates with universal truth, Jones's shimmers with suggestiveness and ambiguity’ Roger Cox

‘Less than 100 pages long but carries more weight than most novels I read this year. It's both exciting and intense, and written with a care for each word’ John Self, Best Books of 2016

‘Painful, moving, energising and intensely thrilling... Immensities happen in this slim book... wildly rewarding and utterly exhilarating’ Niall Ferguson

‘Stunning’ Simon Savidge

‘The writing [is] spare and economical... lyrical... short and intense’ Charlotte Runcie

‘This is writing that forces you to pay close attention... A powerful story about one man pitted against the elements, with echoes of Hemingway... but original in its underlying poignancy; the storytelling is stripped to its bare essentials’ Kate Saunders

‘This undersung Welsh writer specialises in sinewy, sliver-thin novels that trash cosy notions about benevolent Mother Nature... Pungent with jeopardy, the atmosphere is stark and elemental, with a faint hint of allegory in the plight of the unnamed protagonist’ Anthony Cummins

‘To read Cove is to take a masterclass in taking out everything but the essentials. This is writing stripped back to the bone, and storytelling that gets under the skin. Powerful, terrifying, brilliantly done’ Jon McGregor

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