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On the Red Hill: Where Four Lives Fell into Place

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  180 ratings  ·  37 reviews
In early 2006, Mike Parker and his partner Peredur were witnesses at the first civil partnership ceremony in the small Welsh town of Machynlleth. The celebrants were their friends Reg and George, who had moved to deepest rural Wales in 1972, not long after the decriminalisation of homosexuality. When Reg and George died within a few weeks of each other in 2011, Mike and Pe ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 6th 2019 by William Heinemann
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shortly after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1972, Reg and George moved to deepest rural Wales from Bournemouth. They had a couple of homes before settling into a house that would become a B&B and be their home until 2011. In total, they were together over six decades, the first two of which their relationship was deemed to be illegal by the state. In 2006 they formally became a couple with a short civil partnership ceremony in the town of Machynlleth. They had two witnesses to this m ...more
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those ambitious nonfiction books where multiple strands of life and reality are woven together so seamlessly and beautifully that one marvels at the engineering and craft of the thing. Mike Parker has structured his book into fourths, and each of these fourths is made of a cardinal direction, a season, an element, and a flesh and blood character, one of whom is the author himself. Brilliant and a bit pagan, the author masterfully leads the reader through all these lenses, weaving ...more
Dan Myatt
Upon reflection and the comment of another user! I feel brave enough to alter my review!

I did not enjoy this long, plodding book that dragged on! I found some of the characters quite dislikeable and predatory for what their own gains.

A really unenjoyable read to be honest!
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a lovely book, really hard to categorise though! It's part gay memoir/history, part the story of a house, part reflection on community and part description of the rhythm of the natural world - a summary which probably doesn't do justice to any of the parts. There is a lot of artistic and poetic inspiration here too. There is a fourfold structure following different themes - the four seasons, the four elements, the four men whose stories are told here.
The house, Rhiw Goch, is a traditiona
Claire O'Sullivan
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a gorgeous read . Poignant. Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize - deservedly so.
Although this was the Wainwright Prize runner-up in the UK nature writing category, it’s primarily a memoir/group biography about Parker, his partner Peredur, and George and Reg, the couple who previously inhabited their home of Rhiw Goch in the Welsh Hills and left it to the younger pair in their wills. In structuring the book into four parts, each associated with an element, a season, a direction of the compass and a main character, Parker focuses on the rhythms of the natural year. The subtit ...more
Andrew Howdle
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a prose Four Quartets. It is a memoir linked by a single incident, how George and Reg, a homosexual couple (George refused to use the euphemistic "gay") left their home, Red Hill, which can also be translated as "bloody sex" in Welsh, to Mike and Preds. Each part of the memoir maps a different character, a different element, and a different direction: Fire/South; Earth/North; Air/East; Water/West. The memoir charts many themes, Wales, landscape, belonging, seasonal change, youth, ag ...more
Andy Weston
Aug 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, nature, lgbtq
I read this as it was longlisted for the Wainwright Nature-Writing Prize (2020), and also because its mid-Wales hill setting is somewhere I know well.
But I was bowled a doosra and didn't spot it.
This is an overtly personal account of the author and his partner following in the footsteps of their mentors, George Walton and Reg Mickisch. In 1972, just five years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality, George and Reg opted for the quiet life and settled in a Welsh-speaking village in the Mo
Annie Garthwaite
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This has been on my 'to read' pile for months! And I finally got to it. What a treat. A story of finding home and family in rural Wales. My partner and I retreated from London on Shropshire (not quite Wales but close enough) twenty years ago and have likewise found 'the place' we need to be. Beautifully written and honest - I strongly recommend it!
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book. . . Mike Parker is one of the best descriptive writers I have come across. He makes the Welsh farm he and his husband inherited a place that the reader longs to visit. There is a word in Welsh, hiraeth, that coveys the overwhelming longing for Wales experienced by expats. Parker, an Englishman by birth, feels hiraeth six months after he and Peredur started their lives on Red Hill. They had traveled to the continent, and in the midst of a large Italian city Parker suddenly was engulfed ...more
Nov 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is not just the true love story of George & Reg, nor of that of Mike & Peredur, but of a love for a country and culture, a place and of nature.
That place is a remote farmhouse called Rhiw Coch, nestling in the Welsh speaking rural heartland of Powys, a stone’s throw from Machynlleth.

George and Reg met in post war London and ended up in their dream home Rhiw Coch. After almost sixty years together they were the first same sex civil partnership in the area. The ceremony in 2006 was witnesse
Mar 29, 2021 added it
I haven’t rated this book because it isn’t what I was expecting, and that is no fault of the book or the author. I read this as it was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize. In the shortlist guide it is credited with “brak(ing) new ground for nature writing, while also being a welcome addition to writing on Wales” and is described as
“...the story of Rhiw Goch, ‘the Red Hill’, and its inhabitants, but also the story of a remarkable rural community and a legacy that extends far beyond bricks and mo
Ivan Monckton
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it
This is the third book by Parker that I have read, and the third that I have given 3 stars to. In the same way as the other books, this is a mixed bag, with good and bad points. The social and political history of homosexuality over many decades was excellent, the not calling out of George, one of main characters, as a lifelong predator and groomer, especially of young boys is unacceptable. Similarly, the writing on nature is very good, but please, can we not be spared the old cliches about coun ...more
Jan 01, 2021 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the descriptions of landscape and reminiscence of nature. I happily lost myself in a fairyland at once familiar (having grown up in Snowdonia) and new (not having explored the specific area). I found that the splicing of time and topic would rudely cut me away from happy imaginings to speculation over dead men's diary entries and suggestive gossip about people's lives. The book comprises four intertwined stories; told through broken but tenuously linked fragments. It is part autobiogra ...more
Rebecca Wood
Aug 18, 2020 rated it liked it
I'm giving the book 3 stars, and i fear that is generous. There's no doubt this book is interesting and some of the relationships are so very touching, and some of the nature descriptions eloquent, but dear me, the detail. There's a level of detail in this book that is neither interesting or useful. It bogs the book down. Specifically all the detail on famous people. I'm not sure what purpose it held. It could have done with another edit. I'm also not sure the chapters and parts work, they feel ...more
Kevin Wilcoxon
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
For me, this book was best read slow enough to savor. The story of two gay couples, one older and the other not, forms the basis. Added, layer by layer, are the stories of the neighbors and visitors, the community, the land and the gay history of Wales. Though each chapter is specifically titled (e.g., Autumn), the stories are inter-weaved throughout. Especially for visitors and replanted Englanders, Wales is a place of refuge and quiet. Slowing down the pace of life. Enjoying the little things. ...more
Mark Ludmon
Apr 14, 2021 rated it liked it
A memoir that explores gay history and the joys of life in country through the eyes of a gay writer who relocated from England to Wales, settling in a cottage, Rhiw Goch. The highlight for me was the stories of the gay couple who owned the cottage before, Reg and George, looking back at their lives through the shifting attitudes of the 20th century. I was less interested in the nature writing but the book jumps around, tackling a myriad of topics, from Welsh language and culture and the changing ...more
Jayne  Gray
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. I thought it might be interesting but I didn't expect to get so caught up in all four lives, and it the place itself.
Parker has really caught Reg and George well, warts and all but with a gentle touch. He hasn't quite captured himself and Preds, but whoever can be objective about themselves and their loved ones?
I found myself very much relating to Parker, and had the always delightful experience of finding insights in the book into myself.
Ann Hill
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was ok
I read half of this book and then skim read to second half. The book is about four men, two couples about a generation apart. They become friends and when the older pair die within a few weeks of each other they have left their house to their younger friends. The house is in a remote part of Wales. Some of the descriptions of the countryside and the house are lovely. However I did find that this book did skip about a bit in time so I did find it a little hard to follow.
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished-in-2020
I loved this - far more than just a memoir and place-history, there are so many well-observed and beautifully-documented insights into myriad things, from gay male history to different kinds of Welshness. There were things I was uncomfortable with, but they didn't overshadow how much I enjoyed the book. ...more
Catherine Jeffrey
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-books
A brilliant piece of writing that tells the story of the author and three other men. The narrative is told through the four seasons and the four elements, fire, air, earth and water. The backdrop is the countryside of Wales and an old house called Red Hill which is the heart of the story. A very strong contender for the Wainwright prize.
Nathalie Korhonen
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it
A lovely reflective memoir. Parker's prose is well suited to this kind of book, and it's clearly incredibly close to his heart. Unfortunately, it lacks direction at points and tends to ramble quite a bit. ...more
Hannah Dee
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
I absolutely loved this book. The intricate interweaving of gay history, autobiography, nature and geography to tell a story of people and place is like nothing I've read before.

I read it slowly, mostly in the garden, which feels right somehow for a book so bound up in Wales and nature.
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize, but is as much biography as it is nature writing. Incredibly evocative of place without pretension, and written with real love for the people and surroundings. Enjoyed.
Kyran Crute
Jan 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Good read, but on the long side and the structure felt a little forced at times
Rosie Hunt
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A lovely, quiet book to take in slowly. I really liked how Parker evoked an idyllic rural existence while also exploring the darker undercurrents of rural life.
Sofie Scholten
Feb 21, 2020 rated it liked it
enjoyable read, a lot of nice glimmers.
Peadaar Morrissy
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Charming, witty, sad, enlightening, honest, un-put-downable ....
David Smith
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
A lovely, ambitious exploration of four lives, a house, a community, a landscape and the struggles faced by people who break free of society's expectations. ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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