Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “On The Black Hill” as Want to Read:
On The Black Hill
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

On The Black Hill

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,323 ratings  ·  121 reviews
On the Black Hill is an elegantly written tale of identical twin brothers who grow up on a farm in rural Wales and never leave home. They till the rough soil and sleep in the same bed, touched only occasionally by the advances of the twentieth century. In depicting the lives of Benjamin and Lewis and their interactions with their small local community Chatwin comments movi ...more
Paperback, 262 pages
Published December 3rd 1998 by Vintage Classics (first published 1982)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about On The Black Hill, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about On The Black Hill

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,705)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is a nice, quiet little novel to pick up when you don't want anything upsetting or scary or suspenseful to read. It's very much place-driven and character-driven rather than dependent on an exciting plot. Chatwin covered 80 years in 250 pages, so there's no excess prose or boring passages. The beauty of the book is the way the author carries you away to a sheltered little farming community on the border of Wales and England. With very few words he richly creates all the small-town provincia ...more
I've never read Chatwin before , but his name brings to my mind voyages and distant countries.Meanwhile we receive unusual story , set on the farm called "The Vision " on the english-wales border.
" One of the windows looked out over the green fields of England;the other looked back into Wales , past a clump of larches, at the Black Hill ".
Protagonists are twin brothers Lewis and Benjamin Jones. When we meet them they are in their eighties.They spent together all their life.
We meet theirs father
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Take Haruki Murakami's novel, Kafka on the Shore. A delight to its juvenile readers, and why wouldn't it? Lots of props here: cats talking to humans, frogs falling like rain from the sky, a son having sex with his mother, a brother-and-sister love scene, killings, ghosts. Even the title hints of fantasy. After reading it, however, you feel empty. Like you've spent new year's eve all alone, you've watched the fireworks in the sky consume themselves, then you sleep with no remembrance of any joy.

Inderjit Sanghera
Nabokov once states that all great stories are fairy tales in the sense that each work of fiction was a magical creation of a new world, 'On The Black Hill' is broadly speaking a "realistic" work of fiction but Chatwin is able to imbue it (especially the depiction of the Jones brothers childhood) with a magic, not with the magic of fiction but the magic of life. 'On The Black Hill' is the story of the lives of two twins in rural Wales. Nothing much happens in their lives, neither travel further ...more
Michael Boxall
Chatwin had a beautiful way of writing, usually described as spare. I collect sentences that please my ear and write them out by hand in a hard-backed notebook. I read On the Black Hill in 1982, when it was published, and among the half-dozen or so sentences I copied were the following:

"Crossing the pasture one evening, he watched the swallows glinting low over the dandelion clocks, and the sheep standing out against the sunset, each one ringed with an aureole of gold--and understood why the Lam
Always I have associated Bruce Chatwin's work with travel to far-off places. This time, with On the Black Hill, he threw me for a loop. We the a whole lifetime lived in one place, on the border between Radnor (in Wales) and Hereford (in England). The lifetime is of a pair of twins named Lewis and Benjamin Jones, two bachelors who slept with each other in their mother's bed on the old farm called The Vision.

Because I had a suspicion of what the book was about, I did not expect to like it. Not on
A beautifully written, rather brooding story that's set in the wild but beautiful Welsh countryside and follows the lives of two twin brothers who were born at the very beginning of the 20th century. From the start they were inseparable and so closely bonded that they seemed to have been able to sense when one or the other was in danger or pain. They remained bachelors all their lives, sharing everything as they continued to live on the farm that their father had bought years ago. The book's cha ...more
Wendy Chard
This was a novel of almost unutterable beauty. Chatwin's writing is beyond lyrical and has a real rooting in time and place. Oh, to be in Wales at the turn of the last century! I can just imagine how bleak the winters were, and how spectacular the summers.

It was poignant to view the passing of time and the changes it wrought. This story felt different because of the time span covered. I've read plenty of novels set in the rural 1900s, but have not yet seen one modernise this world as Chatwin di
Owen Curtsinger
There was something about this novel that didn't strike me until after I read it. For most of the time that I was actually in the thick of reading, I didn't feel particularly attached to any of the characters. From reading his other books, I feel that Mr. Chatwin had a sense of observation more powerful than most writers of his time, and that certainly shines through in this first novel of his. The sense of community and landscape is made tangible through the little details that Chatwin is so go ...more
Since first reading this years ago, I'd forgotten how different it is from the rest of Chatwin's books: instead of the motif of an individual going out to see the world that recurs in his fiction and nonfiction alike, On The Black Hill is the story of people who stay home with stubborn insistence while the world and its changes arrive on their doorstep, welcome or not. The writing is gorgeous, grounded in the details of farming and landscape while simultaneously exploring the abstractions of his ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
this was the second time round for me. I'd previously read this about 15 or 20 years ago and remembered enjoying it then, or maybe it was more that I read a great chunk of Chatwin back then and enjoyed 'Songlines' and kind of lumped this in with it. I am fascinated by Chatwin as an author and a person, and I've been reading some of his letters alongside this and finding them interesting and touching.

For me, 'On the Black Hill' is just a bit slow and claustrophobic... but has some lovely little e
One of the most truly memorable novels I've read in recent years, lives in place on the Welsh border over the course of the 20th century.
Marion Husband
Wonderful, lyrical, poetical; one day leads to the next with not much plot to speak of - almost like a series of short stories.
Sally Tarbox
'For forty two years, Lewis and Benjamin Jones slept side-by-side in their parents' bed at their farm ...', 20 Dec 2014

Set on the Welsh/English border, this is the story of elderly twins in a remote rural community, opening in the late 19th century, with their parents' courtship, and concluding in the 70s, with the twins in old age.
As other reviewers have observed, nothing massive happens; there is interaction with the local aristocrats, the Bickertons; with various neighbours, notably the unfo
Vince Donovan
Another Chatwin masterpiece. I always imagined him sweating over this manuscript, polishing it lovingly in some rustic farmhouse in rural England. I read (much later) that he wrote it quickly, while in a hospital dying of AIDS.

The story concerns twin brothers, farmers in the English countryside, and how their lives unfold. There is the usual Chatwin attention to language, to nature, to human tenderness.
This is the type of novel that sets the scene in the present (around 1980, when it was published) and then jumps back 100 years to tell us how we got there. It traces the lives of twin, now 80-year-old, Welsh brothers who are more than usually psychically attached, and the lives of their parents. It is a somewhat elegaic look at a vanishing rural life and the sense of place is a big part of the appeal. The books I have read in the past six years by John Wain, Kingsley Amis and Richard Hughes wit ...more
A tale set in a Welsh farming community that examines in great detail the petty squabbles and minutiae of village life.
The story starts when the integral characters are adults with a fleeting mention of the twins Lewis and Benjamin looking at a wedding picture of their parents, from then on its a retrospective look at not just their lives but also their parents so essentially you are reading the history or saga of generations.
The action centres at first on Mary and Amos, their lives, marriage an
Marc L
Chatwin was a writer with many faces, in nothing this book compares to his other work. It's a traditional, pastoral novel in the tradition of Thomas Hardy and even a bit D.H.Lawrence. Chatwin has composed a very classical story about the life of two twin-brothers, living together on their farm on the border of England and Wales, and for about 80 years, inseparable, whilst the great events of the twentieth century pass their window, without leaving much traces. Written with lots of details, about ...more
bought today 1 of 12 books for $10 the lot.

loaned to pop
I have been struggling to write a review for this book. I recently re-read it, after having first read it more than ten years ago. All I could remember was that I really liked it, but not what it was about. Now I have to say that I found it absolutely enchanting, but I still find it hard to say why. Also, it is the only Chatwin book that I truly liked (out of the four that I read).

It is a short novel about the lives of unspectacular people, twin brothers born in the year 1900 in the Welsh count
Un romanzo incentrato sullo stretto legame tra due gemelli, un legame capace di annullare il mondo che li circonda, escludendoli e relegandoli all'interno dei confini, stretti e rigidamente marcati, della loro fattoria.Ogni volta che i due fratelli mettono il naso fuori dal loro mondo, succede qualcosa che li ricaccia indietro, costringendoli a rintanarsi tra le mure domestiche, dove si sentono veramente in pace.

Un legame che annulla le identità dei due fratelli, ingurgitando e macinando anche l
On the Black Hill is the story of a farming family in Wales. It begins in the last years of the lives of the identical twins named Lewis, marked with a cross to show he was born first, and Benjamin, both white-haired and venerating their mother's memory. From this follows the story of their parents' meeting, courtship, and marriage. The pages covering the birth of the twins and the circumstances and characters that made their parents' stormy marriage were the ones I found most absorbing.

The boys
Jay Daze
Chatwin writes beautiful sentences as he charts the cradle to grave journey of two Welsh farmer twins. Some may find the resolute narrowness of Lewis and Benjamin's lives, wed to their farm "The Vision", boring. The only event of the outside world that impinges on their lives is whether one or both might be sent to fight in the blood-bath of World War I. The language, a prose style that isn't showy, yet is (seemingly) effortless in its flow, carried me through the pages with its understated beau ...more
All Bruce Chatwin's books seem to have a provincial side to them. Set in outlandish places in all corners of the Earth, they all have a sort of question mark attached to them, perhaps asking: Now, what's going on here? "On the Black Hill," is, I maintain, set in as outlandish a spot as any of them. The Welsh countryside has bred just as odd examples of humanity as the green hills of Kentucky or the wide veldt of South Africa. Yet Chatwin sees through them all, down to some sort of common denomin ...more
Dec 17, 2012 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mary Kay Feather
Recommended to Mark by: Ursulawt Willaredt
I have been a fan of Bruce Chatwin ever since I read Songlines after first moving to Seattle in 1990. He is one of my favorite writers and I have read both of his biographies and Under the Sun, the book of his letters. However I didn’t know Chatwin's fiction so I started with On the Black Hill. However, it's not really fiction with a begining and and with a plot in between. It’s like all his genre-bending books: Deep descriptions of people and places. The fact that the characters of Black Hill a ...more
This story is about identical twins Benjamin and Lewis Jones growing up and living on a farm in rural Wales and in many ways is a study of the ordinary unremarkable lives that many people live or certainly used to.

Chatwin paints a beautiful picture of the quiet life where very little ever happens, where friendships and hatreds last a lifetime, and how people are at one with their surroundings. Where life is hard but in its own way satisfying because success and failure is down to their efforts a
Bruce Chatwin (read more) published seven books before his death in 1989; essays, accounts of his travels, a fictionalised biography and three novels. Three compilations of his essays were also publushed posthumously.

"On the Black Hill" is one of his novels. It tells the story of two brothers, identical twins, born in 1900 in the farm lands on the Welsh-English border. As the story ranges backwards and forwards over the course of three generations, we follow the undulations of family loyalties,
Lately, I've had almost no time to read for pleasure, and in fact I only picked up this book as background/research for an upcoming reporting trip to Wales, but as soon as I started it, I forgot that this was a work-related read. I so enjoyed everything about it -- the characters, the sense of place, the way that the plot seemed slightly exaggerated in a few spots, as if we were dealing with archetypes from a pastoral, but then almost immediately pulled back to reveal a much more nuanced element ...more
Having read and loved "In Patagonia," I was curious to see if Bruce Chatwin's fiction stood up to his travel writing. I wasn't disappointed, as "On The Black Hill was a delightful novel.

The book tells the story of Lewis and Benjamin Jones, identical twins who grow up on "The Vision," a farm in Wales. They are so intertwined that they rarely leave each other or the farm where they were born and raised. It's a simple setting for a fairly simple book.

There isn't a ton of plot. It's mostly a series
A rather old-fashioned novel, I thought, and all the more wonderful for that. Eighty years in the life of bachelor Welsh farmers, who live though the 20th century relatively unscathed by it, even as everything--wars, social upheaval, modern technology--happens all around them. A lovely picture of life in a traditional agricultural area as it reluctantly meets modernity.
Knowing just a little of Chatwin, I expected a different type of book, more stylistically odd, but here he writes with straightf
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 90 91 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Alternate book cover 3 10 Aug 11, 2014 12:17AM  
  • Downriver
  • Ulverton
  • Signals of Distress: A Novel
  • Master Georgie
  • The Last King of Scotland
  • Theory of War
  • In Parenthesis
  • Day
  • Hideous Kinky
  • Tarka the Otter
  • The Chymical Wedding
  • Joseph Knight
  • Summer in Baden-Baden
  • The Life and Death of Harriett Frean
  • Pilgermann
  • The Birds Fall Down
  • Music and Silence
  • Cigarettes
Charles Bruce Chatwin was an English novelist and travel writer. He won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel On the Black Hill (1982). In 1972, Chatwin interviewed the 93-year-old architect and designer Eileen Gray in her Paris salon, where he noticed a map of the area of South America called Patagonia, which she had painted. "I've always wanted to go there," Bruce told her. "So have ...more
More about Bruce Chatwin...
In Patagonia The Songlines Utz What Am I Doing Here? The Viceroy of Ouidah (Vintage Classics)

Share This Book

“Because they knew each other's thoughts, they even quarrelled without speaking.” 15 likes
More quotes…