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3.62  ·  Rating details ·  677 ratings  ·  94 reviews

John Turner was a packman. With his train of horses he carried salt and silk across distances incomprehensible to his ancient and static community. He brings ideas as well as gifts that have come, by many shor
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published October 23rd 2003 by Harvill Press (first published October 2nd 2003)
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3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  677 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who want to reconnect with the land
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
I was very unsure about this book when I first started reading it - this can partly be blamed on the fact that I am a lazy monkey who bothered to read neither the blurb on the back of the book or the note in the 1001 books to read before you die list which explains why it is on said list in the first place. Initially the unexpected batting back and forward time echoes narrative was difficult to get my eyes around however, once I'd reconciled myself to the two very different styles of narrative I ...more
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, owned, favorites
Some 60 years ago while running near the valley of Thursbitch in Cheshire, the author, Alan Garner, stumbled across a memorial stone with an enigmatic inscription:


And on the obverse side:


Haunted by the memorial stone, and by the uncanny atmosphere of the tracks and valleys of Cheshire, Garner did research and talked to local historians in
This is one of those novels that has the potential to polarise readers. I discovered Alan Garner last year when I read Red Shift and was in awe of his ability to tell a story. Thursbitch also requires patience and perseverance but the rewards are satisfying.

Thursbitch is a place that has meaning, where the past and present can converge and at times overlap. The life of John Turner in 1755 and Sal and Ian's journey in the present time weave together. It's a difficult story to describe and I suspe
Kevan Manwaring
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Alan Garner's new novel has been a long time coming, but like the slow processes of geology, folk memory and love, it has produced something distinctive and enduring. Thursbitch is based on a true place and a true tale of discovery: once, when fell-running as a younger man, Garner stumbled upon a stone in a Pennine track in Cheshire with this curious inscription:

Jim Coughenour
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 ...more
Kristen McDermott
A winter gem from the greatest living master of the mythopoeic. Time, place, stone, sense, and language are set into a spiral dance that transports the reader utterly. All of Garner's novels are rooted in the urge to know a place so deeply that every fragment of it evokes a dream, every object becomes multiplied and reflected through time and space. No one else takes the connection between land, lore, and language further and deeper. Every aspiring (or working) writer should read Garner to see h ...more
Ari Berk
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Mythic and extraordinary in every way. This is a book for those who love language and who are looking to better understand the ways in which events inhere within landscape. A fascinating and gripping tale as well showing how time becomes something far more flexible than we ever imagined. Some actions, once lived, live on forever.
Mike Niewodowski
Aug 05, 2013 rated it liked it

“Early Monday morning, late on Saturday night, I saw ten thousand mile away a house just out of sight!

The floor was on the ceiling, the front was at the back; It stood alone between two more, And the walls were whitewashed black!”

-From Thursbitch

To be honest, I was completely lost while reading Thursbitch. The novel is an enigmatic riddle, and the language is intentionally dense and confusing. The valley of Thursbitch in Northern England seems to be a mys
Justin Howe
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A somewhat stunning read that makes me wonder if a book can be simultaneously lean and dense? The themes are reminiscent of Algernon Blackwood being not quite horror so much as awe and wonder at the world, but the prose is utterly stripped down and sparse. To be honest I had to stop a third of the way into the book and restart it in order to catch hold of what was going on. Definitely recommended.
May 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england-blog
This whole novel is poetic. The pagan sections are full of song and dance and ritualistic incantation, with sentences long and winding or short and repetitive, like cycles of the seasons or gusts of swirling wind; the passages exude the rhythm of the earth, the poetry of faith and the solemnity of heavy stones. But Ian and Sal’s modern exchanges display poetry too as the debate between religion and science takes over; rocks are discussed as “Namurian. Chatworth Grit” with “recessed eroded scarp ...more
Nov 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-list-books
Hmmm. Alan Garner was a major author of my late childhood. His wonderful and utterly terrifying mythologising of the Peak District in the UK led to some thrilling trips to Errwood Reservoir and Macclesfield as a kid, where goblins lurked behind boulders and secret passageways to the Underworld were secreted in caves. In Thursbitch, Garner returns to the same region as an adult, in part ghost story, part history of the area. The landscape unites four very different people, who find themselves by ...more
Impressive, quite impressive, but it's the kind of book I need to read twice to comment on, so I'll refrain for now. On the second reading, I'll have a map to hand, dialect dictionary, author's lectures, notes on symbolism, whatever necessary. I feel like this book would reward digging into it.
Gav Thorpe
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable book. A use of language (both narrative and dialogue) that sweeps along and yet utterly grounded in a sense of place and character. Compelling writing.
Dave Morris
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Garner has done all this before, and better, in Red Shift. The Cheshire lingo really stretched my patience. It was presumably meant to make the 18th century bits seem authentic, but he didn't have the guys in Red Shift speak in Latin. At least the modern-day bits are in comprehensible English, but he has almost nothing for those characters to do. The story structure requires us to return to them regularly to hear the same conversation repeated in minutely different forms.

Also I'm thinking it's
Althea Ann
Nov 27, 2013 rated it liked it
When I was young, Alan Garner was one of my favorite authors. His books for children capture, possibly more than any others, the beauty and magic of British folklore. Naturally, I was excited when I found out, just recently, that he's also written some material for adults (and, received an OBE for his contributions to English literature - a well-deserved honor.)

'Thursbitch' is the first 'adult' work by Garner that I was able to acquire (thanks to ILL!)

More of a study than a novel, 'Thursbitch' e
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having moved back up north, my girlfriend and I decided to try a new walk and parked up Pym Chair, we strolled up Cats Torr and across to Shining Torr, it being a fabulous day we decided to drop down into the valley and work our way back under the imposing crags. Halfway along the valley we came across this curious ruin, upright stones with holes in, gate posts perhaps. Thursbitch. I recalled the name from the book list of one of my favourite childhood authors and decided to buy it immediately.

Jul 23, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"c2003. This was a recommendation from a book blogging site. I did not like this book at all - not the plot - not the style of writing. I am glad it was a not a lengthy book at all else I would probably have failed at finishing. The blurb and premise sounded good ""Enigmatic memorial stone, high on the bank of a prehistoric Pennine track in Cheshire....It is a mystery that lives on in the hill farms today."" Well - the only mystery to me is how so many other people seemed to have liked it and I ...more
Simon Sylvester
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm relatively new to Garner, off the back of his wonderful collection of British Fairy Tales and his short novel Strandloper, though I probably read The Owl Service when I was a kid. I'm still digesting Thursbitch. It's profound and important, but it isn't much fun. Garner creates worlds real enough to touch. His prose is so sparse, his stories so lean, that it often feels like there's nothing there at all - as though his work is invisible, and his books are slices in time, windows into centuri ...more
Jun 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I have to admit I found the Jack portions of the book (especially at first) very difficult to follow--so many strange idioms and spellings that I found myself rereading a lot (maybe if I were English it would have been easier). I was a bit disappointed, overall with the book. I picked it up after reading an interview with Susanna Clarke where she recommended it, and I was expecting a lot (maybe too much from such a short book). I feel like I should reread it now that I'm used to the language and ...more
Joey Woolfardis
Feb 10, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015, bloody-cack
Despite being a member of the English People who actually say "nowt" and "owt" a thousand times a day, this was extremely jarring and often unnecessary. It was confusing and, from the blurb and other reviews, seems to only get more confusing, but there is still a part of me that wants to read the rest. I may return, if only because it is a short story and won't take up too much of my time. The name is very misleading as it sounds more like a fantasy than the historical-contemporary mix it actual ...more
Peter Dunn
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
A very, very odd book. Incredibly short with sparingly (and cleverly) revealed characterisation but packs a lot of plot, and most importantly imagery into its 154 pages. Stones, bees, bulls, literal bullshit. You really come away after reading it feeling as if you know Thursbitch and would know it if instantly transported to it more worryingly you feel it might also just be possible that that landscape could also be aware of you.
Jul 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 1001, z2009, uk
I must admit that this book needed a fair bit of attention to get through with its flipping through past and present and the language used, which required a bit of thinking to understand. I think however, that all of that contributed to the general feel of the book, where you had to look deeply to understand all the characters and how they connected to each other and the landscape.
Kelly Skinner
Oct 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting read, olden days language with a focus on the land. I liked it, not sure if i understood all that took place but happy to have read this one.
Mar 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Complex. Needs more patience than I have currently. Beautiful even if I didn't really dig down into the layers.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
I discovered the English author Alan Garner (b-1934) when my parents gave me his first novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, (1960) one Christmas. I loved its English folklore and was enchanted by the fantasy. Still, it came as a surprise to me when at teachers' college studying children's literature, I was introduced to Red Shift (1973). That book didn't strike me as one I might read to primary school children, and when I hunted them out, nor did Brisingamen's sequel, The Moon of Gomrath (19 ...more
H.E. Bulstrode
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Garner’s novel is a curious affair, and all the better for it. Compact, and spare in its prose, it manages to pack much into the generously-spaced text of its 158 pages. Interweaving two periods and two sets of characters united by a single space – the eponymous Pennine valley of the title – he creates a tale in which the landscape becomes a place of enchantment, possessed of an atmosphere dense enough to hold the imprint of memories of lives and events long since passed.

It opens with a packman
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Immediately a sense of place; and that place trenched deep in the shelves of time and rock. The land itself a story; people but superstitions skimming its surface, where it has travelled thousands of miles in millions of years, at the rate of growing fingernails.

The story of pagans surviving with their nature-born rituals deep in the land of the north midlands - led by the touched Jack - while Christianity wails its threats of fire and Hell all about the country. Interspersed, through chasms in
Anne Matheson
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
I had to read Thursbitch twice to get my head round it. The Cheshire dialect makes the historical bits hard going - a glossary would have been so helpful. Other people seem to have found the detective process required to translate the dialogue stimulating but once you've tried online dictionaries and Google searching and not gotten any where it gets a bit annoying. Later, when I was reading about Alan Garner I found this

which is helpful for some of the wo
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A packman, a trader goes from market to market, village to village trading salt and silk but also spreading the local folk lore. His powerful emotional impact leaves a presence felt down the ages to modern times where Ian and Sal are challenged by the tightening grip of her failing body. The hills, the edge, the timelessness of the standing stones, the wildness of the storms, the ferocity of the bull place the reader in the landscape. We hear the wind, feel the cold snow blizzard, stand on the e ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Thursbitch is a valley, Jack Turner is a jagger, Crom is the local Bull-headed deity. This novel, set precisely in the Pennine hills, crackles with linguistic sparks as Garner recreates 18th century dialect. Turner is an itinerant salt trader, and echoes of his journeys find their way to Ian and Sal, 20th century ramblers and geologists, whereby the power of the landscape somehow defies the wasting disease which is engulfing Sal. Language, memory, loss. The power of place, of love, of faith. Pre ...more
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Alan Garner OBE (born 17 October 1934) is an English novelist who is best known for his children's fantasy novels and his retellings of traditional British folk tales. His work is firmly rooted in the landscape, history and folklore of his native county of Cheshire, North West England, being set in the region and making use of the native Cheshire dialect.

Born into a working-class family in Conglet
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