A typical Garner novel, set on a hill in the Pennines (there is a real valley called Thursbitch).
In the 18th century some farmers celebrate decidedly pagan rites involving bulls, snakes, and the consumption of a fermented brew made from marinated magic mushrooms. Jack, a jagger (pedlar), brings presents to his family, including the girl he has impregnated. Much of this part is written in dialect and sometimes can be very hard to follow. 'Thole' means part of a rowlock in the dictionary but it also means (in the dialect) to endure. There's a lot of tholing and other words. A glossary would have helped.
In modern days a pair of hikers, Sal, an expert on geology, and Ian, whose area of experise must be discovered slowly, come across some of the unusual features of this landscape.
These times connect, with each getting glimpses of the other.
And the two stories both follow to their consequences.
It was really difficult to understand what was going on in the first half of the book. But it is worth it if you thole. The refusal to compromise with the language creates soime vivid characters. And as you start to unpick the unspoken motivations, as you start to learn who these people are and why they are interacting with the landscape, the book begins to grip.
- "When bum hole's shut, fart's gone." (Ch 1)
- "This here nook of the world, for me, smiles more nor any other." (Ch 6)
- "Sociable I have all day. Sociable is what I've come here to get away from. Do you know what sociable is? Smile without feeling." (Ch 16)
A strange book, difficult at the start. But worth it. September 2020; 158 pages
Garner is author of a number of novels, mostly aimed at children, in which ancient legends and magical worlds impact upon everyday life:
- The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, its sequel The Moon of Gomrath, and the distinctively different concluding part to the 'trilogy', Boneland.
- Elidor, a Narnia-style children's fantasy
- The utterly brilliant Owl Service (aimed at young adults)
- Red Shift, also aimed at young adults and perhaps the darkest of Garner's novels. A line in Elidor - "The legend says that there was once a ploughboy in Elidor: an idiot, given to fits. But in his fit he spoke clearly, and was thought to prophesy." (C 6) - seems to be a link with one of the characters in Red Shift. There are also several links between Red Shift and Boneland.