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3.66  ·  Rating details ·  478 ratings  ·  70 reviews
At the heart of this novel lies the fictional village of Ulverton. It is the fixed point in a book that spans three hundred years. Different voices tell the story of Ulverton: one of Cromwell's soldiers staggers home to find his wife remarried and promptly disappears, an eighteenth century farmer carries on an affair with a maid under his wife's nose, a mother writes ...more
Paperback, 385 pages
Published 1998 by Vintage (first published 1992)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  478 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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Jake Goretzki
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Stylistically stunning and very clever. I cannot believe this didn’t get more prizes when it came out. A kind of Akenfield (rural documentary) meets Cloud Atlas (shifting eras, narrators and connections) meets polemic.

Firstly, it’s brilliant pastiche – conveying the language, the (reimagined) dialect and the medium of the different eras. For doing this so well (even read amid today's glut of historical pastiche), it deserves applause.

It also brings the pleasure of a good mystery. Reading
Stephen Livingston
Apr 28, 2012 rated it liked it
A Novel of Short Stories
Adam Thorpe’s first novel Ulverton comprises twelve chapters. Each of these chapters is a short story set in the fictional English town of Ulverton. Ordered chronologically these stories span the last three and a half centuries of English history. It is the common factors of geographical location and shared historical events that bind the short stories, written in a variety of styles and expressed through a cross section of society’s viewpoints, into a novel.
We are first
Marion Husband
Jan 22, 2014 rated it liked it
When this is good it's very good, when it's bad it's unreadable, literally if you're reading it on a kindle as the last chapter is in tiny, tiny print and I couldn't adjust it. Also some chapters are written in very heavy dialect and frankly I just skipped those chapters with a feeling that life is too short, what a waste of money, should have borrowed it from the library, oh well, Marion, persevere and all that get the drift or rather you don't, mostly, all those leads....and on it goes ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love, love, love this book. The village of Ulverton is visited across centuries as the reader hears the stories of various of its inhabitants. At first these stories seem random, but as more is learned more is understood, and they all weave in together to form a whole: the history and meaning of the village through its heterogeneous people.
There is something of Alan Garner's writing about it, it has a similar obsession with place (his is Alderley Edge), and as far as I am concerned that can
Feb 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
I liked the idea of this book: a collection of stories all based in the same English village/hamlet starting around the 13th century and moving chronologically to around the present day. The form of the stories and gender of the narrators varied, which made it interesting and challenging. However, I just couldn't get to grips with the stories written in dialect, and have to own up to skipping them!
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Loved the concept of each chapter following on from earlier periods in the life of an English village. Some of the chapters are great. But others are nearly unreadable. Seems more an academic writing exercise than a great novel. Life's too short ...
Did not make it past page 160. The story could not hold my attention. This only happens to me once every few years, but so many books, so little time........
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 really. Although some of the individual passages were well written, I really didn't enjoy this at all. The sections with local dialect were just too challenging to read for very little return to the reader. I like the premise of the book, with the same place featuring through time from 17oo's until the present day, but found it focused more on the people rather than the place and it didn't engage me or give me a sense of the place through time. It's difficult when the sections are so ...more
Dirck de Lint
The cover blurb has a Sunday Times reviewer declaring this "A masterpiece" and it... probably is. It is a powerful exercise in the taking on of different voices, without a doubt-- with each change of era, there is a different narrative point of view, and they are all indeed quite distinct-- but to my slightly low-brow tastes it is wanting in the area of plot. Stuff happens, yes, and there is a nice little quiver in the reader's bosom when events from earlier in the book are referred to later, ...more
Bernadette Robinson
Sadly, despite having looked forward to reading this one I had to give up on it. For those that know me well, they know that I don't give up on books easily and it did take a while to come to this decision.

I started the book on the 8th May and by 17th May, I'd only managed to read around a 135 pages. It was as if reading it was a chore and reading should never be a chore in my opinion. When I was in the mood to read or had the time, it wasn't the first book that I picked up and when I did pick
Loved this. It's impressive simply in terms of sheer narrative skill. Each chapter is distinct in form and voice, moving from 1650 to 1988, including short story, stream of consciousness, diary entries, epistolary fiction, courtroom depositions, descriptions and annotations for a supposed book of photographs, a transcript for a television documentary. Names and stories weave in and out of individual chapters, with every chapter forcing the reader to rethink earlier stories and implications. And ...more
Sonja Trbojevic
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
These 12 stories, set in the fictional town of Ulverton, span over 3 centuries of English history, from 1650 to 1988. An interesting and challenging read, with the final tale taking the reader back to the first one, it is a book to remember. The tales written in dialect reminded me of some of Alan Garner's work. Wonderful!
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Meaghan
Shelves: 1990s
Ten or so carefully interlocking stories over several centuries of an English village. Difficult going in places, possibly a tiny bit too clever for its own good in others, and one that I think needs at least two reads to fully grasp.
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a native of Berkshire, albeit the less toothsome eastern half of the county, I was inevitably drawn to this account of a fictional village comprised of 12 short stories spanning the 300+ years between Cromwell and Thatcher. It had also been recommended by the excellent Backlisted podcast.

That each of the narratives adopts a fashionable literary style of the time - from the epistolary novel to modern drama; from bawdy to murder mystery - indicates how impressive a piece of work this is.
Inventive, but as if by numbers: multiple perspectives over several centuries, in multiple formats - diaries, letters, court transcripts, book extracts, stream of consciousness, snippets of pub conversation, photo captions, film scripts - with only the smallest nods to past sections throughout, meaning an excellent memory is vital to spot the narrative connections.

But the point here isn't narrative (because there isn't much of a one, beyond the vague narratives of each section, most of which end
Oct 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Amazing that this is Thorpe's first novel -- even though I struggled with it a bit, it's a considerable achievement -- three centuries in twelve chapters, each written in a style appropriate to the time and narrator. Inevitably thoughts turn to David Mitchell. But I have to say I found Cloud Atlas more compelling, the links between sections drawn tighter to create a narrative. Some reviewers have mentioned Alan Garner too , and yes the sense of place, the use of dialect, the description of ...more
Patricia Woodward
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is definitely not an easy read before bed. With each chapter, apart from the first, I had to ask myself what is this chapter about and how does it relate to the whole. I enjoy that sort of analysis, some would hate it. Being a country girl I didn't find the dialect difficult...I have neighbours who speak like this and in equally muddled thoughts, so I could follow it okay...
It wasn't until I got to the end of the book....and probably because rural England is going through neighbourhood
Daisy Jenel
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A patchwork quilt of a novel, telling the stories of assorted characters over several centuries in a fictitious village. Thorpe writes with a distinctive voice for each character, ranging from humble shepherds to Victorian lady photographers, and the novel's time span encompasses three hundred years of history. Some people have complained in their reviews that they didn't like the chapters written in dialogue, or skimmed over these, but I think they add to the charm of the book. Radio 4 has ...more
Fictional village of Ulverton in twelve very different type of short stories set between 1650 and 1988. A couple of the stories are really good (four stars) but many of them are, to my mind, almost unreadable because of the style they are written in (two stars). In the end I skimmed through those or simply just stopped reading. I’m sure I’d get the idea of this book if I really concentrated and perhaps read it more than once, but life is too short and I’ve got too many other books I want to ...more
Liz Goodwin
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve become a bit obsessed with English villages. Not that I want to live in one - it just seems the most inviting microcosm through which to read about history happening. Whether over years (Reservoir 13), decades (Akenfield), or centuries, change is absorbed at a pace gradual enough that it becomes legible. In Ulverton, Thorpe traces the topographical, architectural, agricultural, and biographical transformations of a fictional village from the time of Oliver Cromwell to Margaret Thatcher. ...more
Jan Petrie
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An amazingly ambitious, episodic novel covering a period from 1650 to the twentieth century. We are presented with accounts from a varied collection of characters living in and around the fictional settlement of Ulverton in rural England. Each voice has a style which is utterly distinctive and feels completely authentic. Through their stories we are able to piece together a sense of the lives and concerns of the whole community in the face of historical changes and traumatic events. This book is ...more
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic novel that tells the history of an English village from the 17th Century to modern day. I was immediately gripped with the initial story of a soldier returning home during the English Civil War and although some chapters were difficult to get into I think it was more my failing than that of the author. The afterword from the author in my edition was also very enlightening and led me to a greater understanding of the novel as a whole and what linked the stories and the ...more
Jill Bowman
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This book, for me, was decent in part but not the masterpiece I’d been led to think. Some stories, all taking place a generation or so apart in the English town of Ulverton, were interesting but there were no titles and it took me a few pages to discover who was speaking and about what. For many stories I could read them by imagining them spoken by characters from Cold Comfort Farm - and several stories I just had to skip because sorting through the dialect just wasn’t worth it to me.
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Dammit! Had to return it to the library before I finished it. I'll definitely come back to it (probably buy my own copy). It's the most amazing series of loosely linked stories set in a Wessex village, over the course of 300 years. Each chapter is its own little self-contained nugget of beautiful writing. Different genres, different voices - all excellent and totally convincing.
Laura Derbyshire
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. I feel as though Ulverton is as real as any place I have visited in real life. I loved the mix of language as you travel through the years, the history is rich, the human experience and emotion visceral, I felt anguish and delight and horror and pity. It was such a journey, one that I'm sure I'll take again as I'm sure I will re-read.
Kris McCracken
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
An immense sweep of a novel. Narrow in geography, wide in time. Stylistically, this is all over the shop, and demands much of the reader. Experimental in form, it does a great job in humanising history, exploring political and social changes over the past 300 years.
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was ok

I am a great fan of Adam Thorpe but this was not a favourite. Parts of the narrative recounting 300 years of life in Ulverton were wonderful, but other parts were nearly incomprehensible, written in phonetic English of very dubious prose.
Graham Vernall
Not quite a 4: many excellent passages and really quite moving in parts specifically 'Leaward,' 'Dissection' and 'Wing' but the writer's technical abilites don't always match his inspiration, and some passages, particularly 'Stitches,' are failures. Still, more good than bad.
Gregoire Jones
Dec 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
I started with enthusiasm but got sick of the impossible to read sections, it's just unintelligible
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely, meditative book, moves through time with the slow, undeniable purchase of a river flowing through the land.
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Adam Thorpe is a British poet, novelist, and playwright whose works also include short stories and radio dramas.

Adam Thorpe was born in Paris and grew up in India, Cameroon, and England. Graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford in 1979, he founded a touring theatre company, then settled in London to teach drama and English literature.

His first collection of poetry, Mornings in the Baltic (1988),
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