RSS

Thursbitch – Alan Garner

28 Oct

bitchyHere John Turner was cast away in a heavy snow storm in the night in or about the year 1755.

The print of a woman’s shoe was found by his side in the snow where he lay dead.

This enigmatic memorial stone, high on the bank of a prehistoric Pennine track in Cheshire, is a mystery that lives on in the hill farms today.

John Turner was a packman. With his train of horses he carried salt and silk, travelling distances incomprehensible to his ancient community. In this visionary tale, John brings ideas as well as gifts, which have come, from market town to market town, from places as distant as the campfires of the Silk Road. John Turner’s death in the eighteenth century leaves an emotional charge which, in the twenty-first century, Ian and Sal find affects their relationship, challenging the perceptions they have of themselves and of each other. Thursbitch is rooted in a verifiable place. It is an evocation of the lives and the language of all people who are called to the valley of Thursbitch.

Garner is one of the few authors that I struggle with, after enjoying the magical The Wierdstone of Brasingamen and then being less convinced by some of his other books – Elidor, The Owl Service and Red Shift – I once again found myself hooked by the ancient ways of the author’s evocative scene setting.

This book feels like a culmination of ideas of the three above books that didn’t quite convince me when I initially read them.  With two separate stories, one a character exploration and the other a glorious look into the past with its ancient traditions, with an opening that really sets the scene for the delights to come.

The echoing of time both backwards and forwards is an appropriate plot device, especially as we are fast losing our connection with the land in modern times. Garner creates an atmosphere that lingers with the reader and is infused with the soil and its seemingly mythical properties.  He deals with loss and the changes to what is an insular setting, the titular valley of Thursbitch.

The book is minimal in terms of superfluous detail so as a result is tightly written but less is definitely more in this case.  The lack of plot though is a good thing as it is about the characters and what they do and believe, that is the true focus; its magic, haunting, pagan and the beauty of the countryside.  The book serves as a reminder of the passage of time and that the past traditions and language we formerly used are threatening to be forgotten and lost to new generations.

The use of archaic language in the text is a challenge to interpret in some cases and plenty of times I resorted to context of surrounding sentences to clue myself in but it doesn’t detract from the reading experience, as it allows the characters to feel more real, with their vulnerabilities and uncertainties.  The coming of change and its consequences are a real fear and the local Cheshire customs which are sometimes disturbing and alien are always absorbing and part of our heritage that should not be forgotten.

The modern story is no less potent, with a more philosophical feel to it and as times collide a more internal storyline is played out regarding the characters who feel the residual effects of the 18th century people before them and of their attitudes.   As this side of the story unfolds, it becomes a moving look at something which will become apparent as the story unfolds and is best left without any spoilers for the full impact to be had.

Being grounded in a real place always makes things much more tangible, apparently Thursbitch still affects people as it did the author, which makes the book mature.  Much more is packed in than its succinct 158 pages suggest, it feels like a shard of history that becomes embedded in the reader’s imagination, a fragmenting and repiecing together of time in with all its humanity.

In a short book Garner can do something extraordinary with the elements and the magic he imbues his words with, something real and visceral deeper ingrained in our DNA and his books should be experienced by all.  whilst a lot of Garner’s work is not always immediately obvious, it is always tantalisingly within the reader’s grasp if they choose to work for it and the pay off is always rewarding and gives so much more than most authors.  This is a book to be thought over and reread but that is part of the beauty of it, it gives to the reader what they put in and more besides.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements
 
29 Comments

Posted by on 28/10/2016 in Fiction

 

Tags: , , , , ,

29 responses to “Thursbitch – Alan Garner

  1. Liz

    28/10/2016 at 17:00

    Wow, this sounds fascinating. Any similarities with Neil Gaiman’s work perhaps?

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      28/10/2016 at 17:05

      The Ocean at the End of the Lake would be the closest approximation although not particularly close…and Coraline and The Sandman series don;t work a s a comparison so I’m probably not the best judge. My reading knowledge always seems inadequate no matter how much I read!

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Liz

        28/10/2016 at 17:14

        I don’t think we shall ever feel totally on top of this subject. It is one of the joys of reading – always more stuff to discover. Thank heavens for blogging to help us feel our way to new adventures!!

        Like

         
        • Ste J

          28/10/2016 at 18:22

          Yes, it is wonderful, as per usual I am behind on visiting but will get on that this weekend. Any excuse to plan how to spend next year’s wages.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  2. Sheila

    28/10/2016 at 22:22

    This sounds great – it makes me think of The Tinkers and Cloud Atlas. I love the thought of past actions reverberating through centuries. I’m going to have to read this one – thank you!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      29/10/2016 at 16:20

      I haven’t heard of The Tinkers and have avoided Cloud Atlas since the film came out which is a rubbish reason I know but it does help ease the pressure on the books I need to read. I will get to it one day, as I love the idea of time’s echo going both ways.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Sheila

        29/10/2016 at 22:22

        You might like Tinkers – it’s different because it’s so beautifully written. It’s not really story oriented, but it makes you think about life more that way because it’s easy to let your thoughts wander while getting lost in the words.

        Like

         
  3. Lyn

    28/10/2016 at 22:55

    My reading knowledge always seems inadequate… Ha! I don’t think so my friend. It always amazes me how in-depth your reviews are. This one even makes me want to read the book…~sigh~ add it to the ever growing list :/

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      29/10/2016 at 15:39

      I usually have to cut them back a bit as a 1000 plus word review isn’t to everyone’s taste, however if I really like the book I will go for it and just keep it all in. I’ll keep piling the books on my friend as I am nice/evil like that and whilst I am doing that I will work on making my reviews even better.

      Liked by 2 people

       
  4. clarepooley33

    29/10/2016 at 02:53

    Sounds good! I read The Owl Service years and years ago but can’t quite remember what I thought of it! In fact I had a look for my copy just then and discovered I have a 1st edition which I think I bought in a local second-hand bookshop 😮 I’m going to have to read it again to remind myself of the story. And I will have to get a copy of Thursbitch 🙂

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      29/10/2016 at 16:12

      Gone are the days when you can find a first edition, these days they are all on ebay. Garner is one of those authors that demands a reread or at least a serious ponder when his books are finished, I may dust off my copies an tackle them again.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • clarepooley33

        30/10/2016 at 00:07

        Books go for silly money on e-bay; I try to avoid looking there.

        Like

         
        • Ste J

          31/10/2016 at 18:10

          Yeah me too, I just want a decent copy at a reasonable price, I’ve never been one for first editions or such unless I bump into them by accident.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  5. gargoylebruce

    29/10/2016 at 09:51

    This one is on my Wishlist somewhere…I agree, he’s a difficult author to really engage with sometimes. I enjoyed The Owl Service (or bits of it, at least) but struggled a bit with The Weirdstone… But found Elidor okay. I think I have to be in he right frame of mind to enjoy Garner’s stuff.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      29/10/2016 at 16:08

      I almost threw up when reading that claustrophobic bit it Weirdstone, Elidor I found lacked compared to the earlier book. Garner is one of those authors that is an acquired taste but I keep going back even when I find his books don’t work for me.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • gargoylebruce

        30/10/2016 at 00:42

        See I read Elidor before Weirdstone, so Weirdstone seemed weirdly intense afterwards. He does have an alluring writing style though.

        Like

         
  6. Bumba

    29/10/2016 at 23:12

    Sounds interesting. Your reviews always a pleasure to read.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      31/10/2016 at 18:57

      Thank you for your continued support and I hope to keep upping my game.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  7. Andrea Stephenson

    30/10/2016 at 21:32

    I have this book to read – it sounds like a magical, haunting novel.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      31/10/2016 at 18:33

      It’ll tie in perfectly with your blog themes, you’ll love it.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  8. Liz Dexter

    31/10/2016 at 15:54

    I liked Weirdstone a lot back in the day but terrified myself stupid with Owl Service and can’t really bear those 60s tea sets our grans all had because of it. Eeps. Husband’s the same about that one, so I might get him to read this one before I do! I do love his sense of place, like Susan Cooper’s.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      31/10/2016 at 20:18

      Ah, yes Cooper, for some reason I couldn’t get on with her works, one day I will travel those roads again though.

      Like

       
  9. Resa

    31/10/2016 at 17:34

    An especially thorough review. I like the idea of time echoing back and forth, and I really like the idea of the use of language to flavor a time.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      31/10/2016 at 19:05

      It is very colloquial and it adds to the real feeling of the whole piece. The malleability of time is a great plot device.

      Like

       
  10. Christy B

    01/11/2016 at 21:20

    The part where you talk about being “convinced” is important.. I think that if we don’t really believe in the characters then we are only half invested in the plot..

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      08/11/2016 at 18:28

      It really takes the reader out of a book when the character doesn’t fit into the story, the more layered a character the better in my view which is why I tnd to not favour bestsellers.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  11. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    09/11/2016 at 00:04

    Use of archaic words can be a hindrance to comprehend the meaning. But, the book sounds like a great read as you have said that it made the characters more realistic…. 🙂

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      09/11/2016 at 17:18

      I quite enjoyed the challenge with the words and also that I was in connection with language from the past made the book somewhat deeper, if a little more testing.

      Liked by 1 person

       

Tell me stuff...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: