Never Was

Part hallucination, part queer bildungsroman, Never Was is a beautifully strange novel about grief, addiction, transmasculinity and class, taking us from a limbo of lost dreams to a small salt-mining town and exploring the way identity is both inherited and re-invented.

Daniel sits on a clifftop in the aftermath of a party at Fin's mansion, looking out over a junky sea. Daniel's not sure why they're there, or who Fin is, even though Fin seems to be somebody famous. To find out, Daniel must tell Fin the story of their childhood, going back to a small salt-mining town in The North, a visit from their now-estranged cousin Crystal, and the life and losses of their salt-miner father, Mika.

Taking us from bus shelters to playgrounds to McDonalds, from the depth of a salt mine to a nightclub toilet, Daniel describes their world of soap operas, sunglasses, newspaper clippings and Princess Diana, steering Fin through the events that led up to The Great Subsidence, when their town and the mine that sustained it collapsed. As Daniel tells their story, they come to learn they’re in a place called Never Was, a limbo for lost dreams and disappointments, a landfill for things that never came to be, but also a place of change and transition.

Dreamy, poignant, and revelatory, Never Was is a bewitching and inventive novel by an inimitable voice in literary fiction.

About the author

H. Gareth Gavin was born in Birmingham in 1984. His fiction has appeared in journals such as Hotel and Short Fiction, and he also publishes work that moves between the creative and the critical. His short story, ‘Home Death’, was longlisted for the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize, and Midland: A Novel Out of Time was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize.

He currently lives in Manchester, where he works in the Centre for New Writing and also teaches a course on trans theory. Never Was is his second novel.

Judge Ellen Peirson-Hagger on Never Was

"This intriguing, multi-faceted novel is a feat of imagination. In it, H. Gareth Gavin boldly merges a story of catastrophe in a northern English town with a tale of drug-addled hedonism in a fantasy land. In the overlaps and spaces between, Gavin tracks a father-child relationship, the promise of celebrity, and the progress of salt from a mine to McDonald’s chicken nuggets.

Never Was is a great trans novel, queering and querying expectations of character, type and truth itself."