Published in paperback by Chatto and Windus now, £10.

Haunting and atmospheric, this strange and touching love story is a remarkable debut with an undertone of rage and violence.

The road out of Nova Scotia's Cape Breton is long and winding. And many of its inhabitants never really get away, held by ties of memory and blood.

Innis Corbett finds himself back there at the age of 19. His mother packs him off from Boston to the isolated Gaelic-speaking community where he was born.

A joy-rider turned car thief, he has no money or transport - and only a handful of marijuana seeds with which to make his fortune in a hostile environment.

He lives with his bachelor uncle, Starr, who has a taste for drink and an eye for a pretty woman.

Complications arise when the alluring and wilful Claire comes to live with his uncle. Innis fosters a sexual obsession with her which develops into a tentative love affair.

But with an inexorable terribleness, he is pushed towards a deed that would violate his connection to the Highland culture he came from.