Native Soil

A contemporary Romance that asks questions about the way we live in the age of mass extinction – in one life, do we fight for place or planet? An absorbing read about a couple torn two ways, with vivid evocations of sweeping landscapes, family loyalties and a dash of science.

306 pages, 6″ x 9″ (October 6, 2023)

ISBN (Paperback) 979-8-9854286-3-6

ISBN (Ebook) 979-8-9854286-4-3

ISBN (Audiobook) 979-8-9854286-5-0

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Sarah Watkinson. Author photo by Sarah Jamieson

Impetuous, rich, and something of a snob, Olivia buys a hill farm and dedicates herself to nature recovery. A tragic accident has left her a widow at 29. No one can compare to the young husband she adored; so, defiantly, she vows never to remarry. Instead she will devote herself to building up the farm as a beacon of restorative agriculture. Her resolve is challenged when she is introduced to television environmentalist and man-with-a-mission Andrew, a hero she has long admired but never before met in real life. Fate, in the shape of land-use politics, brings him to work on her farm, along with his troubled teenage son. A passionate affair develops and runs its course over a moorland summer, under the worried gaze of family and friends on both sides. But Andrew’s mission is global, Olivia’s vision local; what can their happy ending look like?

An intriguing story weaving together natural history, academic battles, and the green revolution. The landscape of Yorkshire is described with verve and delight. A doomed romance binds the tale together, as the competing claims of love and scientific research vie for supremacy. Richard Fortey, author of The Hidden Landscape, Life: An Unauthorized Biography, and Dry Store Room no 1 – The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum

“The rich characters and intriguing plot of Native Soil make it a compelling romance. But it also uses that genre to explore some of the most urgent political and cultural concerns in contemporary life. Questions about the damage caused by conventional agriculture and how to transform it into a sustainable activity are amongst the most vital if the planet is to survive. Native Soil places these questions at the heart of a powerful narrative.” Ian Gregson, author of Not Tonight Neil, How We Met, and Call Centre Love Song

“Though it focuses on the relationships between the main characters, the novel also looks at the complex of relationships between politicians, academics, farmers that become involved in any attempt to get an agricultural research project going. Details on topics such as business planning for the farm, looking after sheep or GM technology are included without slowing the story down. The reader is prompted to think about priorities, as one character says:  “So, we pay for a moon shot but can’t afford to catalogue the living things on the planet.” The engrossing story is peopled with convincing characters – it’s an indication of how well Olivia’s character is drawn that I actually fretted over whether she was moving too quickly in the relationship, convinced that she would be disappointed. You will of course need to read the novel to find out whether my concerns were correct!” Crafty Green Poet



Additional information

Weight 0.41 kg
Dimensions 15.2 × 22.9 × 0.17 cm
About the Author

Sarah Watkinson is Emeritus Research Fellow at the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford. Her debut poetry pamphlet Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight won the 2016 Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Prize. Her second collection, Photovoltaic, was published in 2021 by Graft Poetry. She was inaugural Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods from 2019 and has co-organised annual science poetry conferences at the University of Oxford. She is married, with two children and four grandchildren, and lives in Oxfordshire and Northumberland.