Tristan Hughes - Novels



From the remote forests of northern Ontario to a Neolithic burial chamber on the coast of north Wales, from a frozen lake in the Canadian wilderness to a mysterious Welsh heath, Shattercone takes the reader on a strange, compelling and sometimes heart-breaking journey through the blurry junctures that bind together landscapes and lovers. Including buried elephant bones, explorers gone astray, hidden histories, secret islands, loves found and lost, these subtly linked stories explore the curious and delicate threads that weave together places and people.

Reviews of Shattercone

'In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit writes of 'the blue of distance'.'The colour of that distance', she explains, 'is the colour of an emotion, the colour of solitude and of desire, the colour of there seen from here, the colour of where you are not.' Laura Wainwright, Wales Arts Review



Beside a lake in the northern Canadian wilderness, fifteen year old Zachary Tayler lives a lonely and isolated life with his father.  His only neighbours are a leech trapper, an eccentric millionaire, and an expert in snow.  But then one summer the enigmatic and shape-shifting Eva Spiller arrives in search of the remains of her parents and together they embark on a strange and disconcerting journey of discovery. Nothing at Sitting Down Lake is quite as it seems.  The forest hides ruins and mysteries; the past can never be fully understood.   And as Zach and Eva make their way through this haunted landscape, they move ever closer towards an acceptance of what in the end is lost and what can truly be found.

Reviews of Hummingbird

'Lean, lyrical...beautifully nuanced and utterly touching.' The Daily Mail

'The brilliance of Hughes's novel lies in its refusal to explain what is ultimately inexplicable… Hughes's raw emotion is set perfectly against the rugged landscape of the north - the lakes, trees, rocks, and bugs. There's danger there, but there's also beauty.' Quill and Quire

Hummingbird is a triumph of compression... the narrative control and sense of scale it takes to make everything neither too long nor too short inform its structure...its evocation of eternity, the ever-deferred destination of the ever-changing, just perfect...this novel has scarcely any faults.' Wales Arts Review



In a remote Welsh village by the sea, four friends grow up together. Plain but charismatic Del is the ringleader, unstoppable, supremely confident in her ability to get her own way. Neil, shy and stuttering, and Ricky, full of rage and loneliness, are misfits at school until Del takes them under her wing. Steph is the outsider - pretty, posh, sent to a different school – but she too is mesmerised by Del's devil-may-care approach to life.

They hang around together – mucking about in the woods, searching for treasure on the seashore, doing dares, sharing cigarettes. Then, one terrible day, stubborn, confident, fearless Del rows out to sea alone and is drowned.

Meeting ten years later in the now decaying, stagnating village, Neil, Ricky and Steph revisit their childhood haunts and re-live the memories that have cast a shadow over each of their lives. Del is, by turns, the beating heart at the centre of all their stories and a gaping, wrenching absence.

Set against the backdrop of the northern Welsh coast, and told through the captivating, shifting voices of Neil, Ricky and Steph – the children left behind – Revenant pieces together their memories of childhoods broken by desertion, absence and death, and uncovers the secrets and betrayals of childhood friendships, with thoughtful, shocking brilliance.

Reviews of Revenant

‘Hughes's rapt and rhythmic prose captures all the secretive intensity of an "entire compacted country": not just this island of saints and sinners off the north Welsh coast, but youth itself.’ The Independent

‘Superbly accomplished ... Hughes’s prose is startling and luminous.’ Financial Times

‘Lucid and lyrical, this is a beautifully written novel.’ The Daily Mail

‘You don’t need to travel to Africa to find a heart of darkness - there’s always Wales. In the captivating third novel by Ontario-born Tristan Hughes, the Welsh island of Anglesey becomes the setting for a tale as ominous as anything in a Joseph Conrad novel, albeit with empty pubs standing in for battleships, and cheap cans of cider replacing rum.’ The Walrus

Send My Cold Bones Home

Send My Cold Bones Home

When Jonathon, after a protracted spell of rough, back-packing life abroad, learns that he has inherited a country cottage on the island of Anglesey in north Wales, he finds himself transplanted to an unfamiliar world. There he meets a small but striking gallery of local characters: the rough and ready Nut and Bub who farm next door, their more intellectual, physically insubstantial, drinking companion Goronwy, and Tammy, the girl traumatised by a road accident, who becomes one of Jonathon's two obsessions. The other is Johnny, the neighbouring recluse who appears to have turned his back on the world beyond his cottage and the defunct quarry where he once worked.

Uninterested in Jonathon's own travels around the world, Johnny gradually but methodically relates to him the narrative of family history which he has been carrying in his head: the Sinbad-like adventures of his seafaring forebears, his father's birth on a voyage to Valparaiso, later to drown in view of the same port, how his mother in her grief collected all the relics of her husband and turned her face away from her village that would only remind her of him. Johnny's stories unfold in tandem with the winter and with Jonathon's obsession with Tammy, gradually bringing Johnny and Jonathon ever closer until spring brings dissolution of different kinds to each.

In his ambitious second novel, where place again becomes as much a protagonist as the inhabitants themselves, Tristan Hughes reveals the paradoxes of the islander's wide horizons within limited physical boundaries and of the traveller's confinement within his own psyche. With gentle understanding he explores the forces of inherited, imagined and lived experiences and the strange affinities that bring together damaged individuals.

Reviews of Send My Cold Bones Home

“This novel is a rare achievement. Tristan Hughes has his own vision of 'those abstract vistas of yearning that all men carry inside them', and a fine control of language to express it. Ynys Môn is nowhere and everywhere, and in this novel becomes the centre of the earth.” Emyr Humphreys

‘Hughes ... has produced a work that is subtle, sophisticated and memorable.’ Babylon Wales

The Tower

The Tower

A debut novel of love, loss, haunting absences and dispossession, told with artistry and elegance.

The Tower is where Nan found the old miller hanging from the rafters on the eve of the second war like one of his old floury smocks. Jack Cucu, back from Burma with more than the fever in his brain, believed he was the sentinel of the tower until he died. Jack's son, together with his sweetheart scared themselves silly there in the days before the place, and his place in her heart, went cold. And now the tower's getting tarted up for Derrick Dallas by Bachie and his mates from the cowboy construction outfit, on their days off from dropping mushies down The George.

A derelict tower is brought alive through the stories of those who have spent their lives in its presence; it is coloured by clan and community, bound by lines of blood and tales that cut across generational divides.

Reviews of The Tower

‘Pastoral, flinty and fierce’ Independent

‘Hughes is a very good writer, if “good writing” has to do with precision, eloquence, beauty and passionately held belief’ Times Literary Supplement

Eye Lake

Eye Lake

Three families. Three generations. Three disappearances.

Welcome to Crooked River. Population 2851 and falling.

Eli has lived in Crooked River his whole life, and it was his grandfather, Clarence, who put the place on the map - quite literally, because it was Clarence who built the hotel around which the town later grew. Eli knows better than anyone, though, that nothing lasts forever: towns shrink, buildings fall into disrepair; people die or move on - or sometimes, just plain disappear. Even rivers can be dammed, land reclaimed, and lakes created ... though Eli also knows that rivers are like dogs, and will always - eventually - find their way back home.

The same can't be said for the people in Eli's life. His father, uncle and grandmother are dead; he didn't know his mother, and his grandfather Clarence walked to the river one day and never returned. Eli's childhood friend, George, also went missing, back when they were kids, and has never been seen or heard of since.

Eli has spent years wondering about both Clarence and George. Now the river, its course diverted years previously to make way for a mine, is - true to form - returning 'home' and Eye Lake is receding day by day. As the waters retreat, past secrets and mysteries are brought to light, and it seems as though Eli might finally learn what happened to his grandfather and best friend. Then a young boy goes missing, and Eli is suddenly brought back to the present...

Reviews of Eye Lake

'Hughes displays a pitch-perfect ear for the language, cadence and foibles of life in an isolated rural community. He gives us pickup trucks and fishing holes, petty feuds that go back years, and a deep sense that nothing and everything important happens in the town ... A deeply satisfying read worth savouring.' Quill and Quire

'Eye Lake is a sturdy and ... compelling novel, ripe with luminous prose and well-sustained metaphor ... a fine investigation of isolation, work, family, the Canadian pioneer spirit and the doomed communities that linger in opportunity’s wake.' The National Post

'A wonderful contribution to the literature of Northwestern Ontario.' Chronicle-Journal