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The Green Child

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  511 ratings  ·  76 reviews
First published in 1935, The Green Child is Herbert Read's only novel. But if he had written nothing else, this one inspired book would insure his fame. It is a Utopian novel, a unique blend of reality and fantasy which moves from the English countryside to the South American pampas and then to a mysterious and eternal underground of caves.

In genre The Green Child is perha
Paperback, 194 pages
Published January 17th 1935 by New Directions (first published January 1935)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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L.S. Popovich
This bizarre novel was broken into three disparate parts, and by 'broken,' I mean ruined. For part one, he might merit 5/5 stars, for part 2, 2/5, and part 3, 4/5. The longest middle section is a droll account of the main character's life story, his toppling of a dictator, conspiring with revolutionaries, his imprisonment, etc. It was written in an historical style, rather than the lyrical splendor of Part 1.

Part 1 and 3 concerns the 'green child.' In the last, short part, we are treated to a re
Eddie Watkins
Apr 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: uk-fiction
Chapter I was so enchanting, so visionary and suffused with natural glory, that I thought this was not just another book I was reading but was rather a sign, a message from unseen powers the meaning of which was left for me to figure out. So I began searching my mind for reasons or events that led to my reading the book at this particular time; after all, it had been sitting on my shelf, unread, for a good fifteen years, so isn’t it natural to wonder why I had picked up such a magical book at th ...more
Baffling, dreamlike, unsatisfying, crystalline, homely, intriguing and odd, reading The Green Child is a bit like having a long and rather annoying dream, in which nothing much is resolved but many interesting questions are raised in strange and new ways.

The book is split into three distinct sections, each ending in a kind of death; and taken overall the novel represents a statement or exploration of where satisfaction in life is to be found – moving through childhood, early hardship, political
Kobe Bryant
Nov 02, 2015 rated it liked it
He should have just stopped after the first part
Oliviu Crâznic
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very good Gothic novel, inspired by the documented case „Green Children of Woolpit”, with a Ruritarian Romance thrown in the middle (Part II: Olivero`s ascension to dicatatorship in a South America fictional country). ...more
Nathan R G
Apr 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Strange and beautiful. Two words to quickly yet aptly describe this novel, the only one ever penned by essayist, art-critic, and early anarchist Herbert Read. Somewhere I read that T.S. Elliot was awed by the concision and beauty of the prose. The story is divided into three sections. It should be said that this is not a very long book, but the term novella strikes of absurdity given the depth and skill at work on this text. It is not akin to the frantic densities of Marquezian magic-surrealism ...more
Jonathan Norton
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no other British novel I've read quite like this - "Lanark" is similar in its segmented shifts between fantasy and realism, but goes on much longer and ends up confessing to its own artificiality. "The Green Child" ends without explaining the mystery of who its narrator may be, and seems quite sincere in its philosophising. The first section concerns the Victorian wanderer, returning to his childhood village and rediscovering the strange phenomenon of the green-coloured children that ap ...more
Jan 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Funny little story that starts out as an boys' adventure type of deal set in South America, then takes a sharp left into a literal fairy tale. The author sinks to the bottom of a river with a fairy woman captured in his hometown as a child, and they begin their lives together in her world. ...more
Aug 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
sensible, handsome prose about some spooky shit. the structure is like a little sandwich. but the mustard gets on your hands and you wipe them on your dreams.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i liked the general who had a bunch of pet hummingbirds all hanging out in his room
Norman Crane
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, literature
Herbert Read was a British poet and anarchist and an influential art critic. In 1953, he was knighted—strange, for an anarchist. He also wrote a strange novel that was published in 1935. The novel is called The Green Child. It’s the only novel Read wrote and is an autobiographical political fantasy. In the novel, the green children are two but one dies; The Green Child is three parts:

The first part begins, “The assassination of President Olivero, which took place in autumn of 1861, was for the w
Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: borrowed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
D.M. Dutcher
Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Weird three part fantasy. Olivero, dictator of a small nation in South America, has faked his own assasination. He has come home to his real home, England, and back to the small town of his youth. There, following a stream that has seemed to reverse its course, he finds an elfin Green Child, held captive by a youthful aquaintance. He frees her, and travels with her to her world. Part 2 is how he became dictator, and part three is a description of the subterranean world.

As many people have mentio
Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels-english
A mixture of science fiction (ch. 1), Candide (ch. 2), and the latter books of Plato's Republic (viz. V, VII, X) (ch.3) -- an interesting book, to be sure, though not quite at the level that the blurbs (T.S. Eliot, Rexroth, etc.) would have me think.... ...more
Spike Gomes
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
I guess I should join the chorus of people here who start their reviews with "What an odd tale!", for certainly it is strange. Part fantasy novel, part political manual, part philosophic screed, this is noted literary critic and pacifist anarchist Herbert Read's only novel. I was drawn to read this by the back cover blurbs by Graham Greene and T.S. Eliot. If those two throne and scepter Tories found something great in the prose of a disenchanted socialist, then it ought to be worth checking out, ...more
I always feel bad for people who negatively review books I really loved, people who profess they "didn't get" the book. I am now in that sorry position - I wanted very badly to like this book, and had been looking forward to reading it since I first heard of it last year on John Cartan's list of Strange and Wonderful books:

All the blurbs and reviews I've read spoke so highly and mysteriously of it that I was intrigued to see how it would affect me. Howev
Perry Whitford
The president of the former Spanish province of Roncador in South American fakes his own assassination and secretly returns to his native England and the village he left 30 years ago.

President Olivera is seeking to "escape from the sense of time, to live in the eternity of what he was accustomed to call 'the divine essence of things' - that was his only desire".

But the first thing he notices on his return is that the stream that connects the old mill he used to live in and the station appears t
Imagine if you were watching a film like 'Lady in the Water' and just as things were getting interestingly weird you find someone's spliced a film about Napolean into it.
Now you may enjoy a Napolean biopic but you're not very likely to want to watch it in these circumstances.
In the end this becomes a lost/alien civilization tale with some interesting philosophical leanings. It should leave you very thoughtful but somewhat unsatisfied due to its odd structure.
Bobby Williams
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it
It's pretty cool. I don't know. You could find something better to read. Once I was in a waiting room, I had The Green Child with me, I knew about a bookstore around the block...I left the waiting room and bought a different book to read, instead of The Green Child. ...more
Aug 02, 2014 added it
Shelves: read-2014
My review of this book lives at:
Thurston Hunger
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So far as novels go, Herbert Read only wrote this one. Still: he was a decidedly busy man. Taste-maker and critic; actual curator and publisher; ribald anarchist much taken w/ Gandhi's commitment to non-violence; a proponent of nearly every current or up-and-coming avant-garde; a man who was everywhere on the English scene (and often reviled for it) for much of the first half (and change) of the twentieth century. And he was friends w/ pretty much everybody. One of his friends was Carl Jung, a m ...more
[Note: I’m posting the same review for The Green Child, Comemadre, and The Hearing Trumpet, as the review discusses all three; I read them simultaneously and found interesting parallels.]

Another serendipitous, and very strange, co-read: Comemadre, a 2009 novel by Argentine author Roque Larraquy, The Green Child, from 1935 by Englishman Herbert Read, and The Hearing Trumpet from 1976 by Englishwoman-living-in-Mexico Leonora Carrington.

Each of these three books is set, at least partially, in a se
May 08, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
DNF. Got about 80 pages in and it didn't click at all. Felt a bit guilty as it was a gift (although the gifter did warn me in advance it was not for everyone!). Book-reader mismatch for sure.

Great line from one of the top reviews:
...reading The Green Child is a bit like having a long and rather annoying dream, in which nothing much is resolved but many interesting questions are raised in strange and new ways.
Ian Hamilton
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Such a tease! The first third of this book sets the groundwork for an ethereal fantasy tale, complemented by the fact that it’s so well-written. Unfortunately things then change, and momentum is derailed with a needless backstory. I had had my eye on this one for a while and finally found a used paperback copy in a Dublin bookstore. It’s a shame because even the remaining two-thirds are nicely written.
Katherine Sasser
Oct 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Weird fantasy book published in 1935. Interesting description of a fantasy world entirely underground. And not much else, really. The plot is fairly brief and straightforward. It’s well-written and aged well.
Mary Ann
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A magical mystery of a book. Loved this book, it's a bit strange, but a fantasy and found it to be very seductive, enticing, and rewarding. Why didn't he write more? ...more
Mary T
Jan 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
Not interesting, not profound, not even very strange. So much for the book recommendations of Eliot Weinberger in Ghosts of Birds.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Two incredibly bizarre (but compelling) fantasy stories bookend an adventure tale of colonial rebellion. Really not like anything I've ever encountered before. ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
2.5 to be exact. i absolutely adored parts 1 and 3. part 2 was... disappointing.
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Sir Herbert Edward Read, DSO, MC was an English anarchist poet, and critic of literature and art.
Also published as Herbert Read.

He was the publisher and editor-in-chief of Jung's collected works in English.

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