Jim Coughenour's Reviews > Thursbitch

Thursbitch by Alan Garner
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Jul 25, 10

bookshelves: bleakfiction
Read in July, 2010

This is a strange difficult book. The language reminds me of the poetry of Geoffrey Hill – archaic, massively learned, taut with power – but sometimes it's like chewing stones. The story is even harder, set in the "sentient landscape" of an actual, desolate valley in the north of England. Garner's prose is haunted and disturbed. Two times and tales interweave with uncanny effect: the story of a 18th century jagger, a peddler who perishes on a snowy night in the first few pages – and a querulous 21st century scientist dying from a degenerative disease.

If this is genre writing, it's a genre specific to Britain. I thought of the great novels of John Cowper Powys (especially Wolf Solent), of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising quintet and of the "supernatural thrillers" of Charles Williams – books in which the primordial energies of ancient Britain erupt into contemporary consciousness. It's a force Garner takes quite seriously – and for anyone attempting this novel, his lecture The Valley of the Demon is essential reading. You can't help but be impressed by his impressions. I just wish I'd liked it more. The book gave me a headache. It will be a relief to return to Ulysses.
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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim I didn't understand them when I was younger, but I loved loved loved The Dark Is Rising when I was a kid.


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