Rebecca's Reviews > On the Black Hill

On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
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really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, hay-on-wye, obscure-classics, reviewed-for-blog, twins

I mostly read this during our trip to Hay-on-Wye earlier in the month, and feel it is worthy of being called a modern classic. It has echoes of D.H. Lawrence and especially Thomas Hardy, and it’s a pleasantly offbeat look at the developments of the twentieth century as seen through the lives of Welsh identical twins Benjamin and Lewis Jones. Opening in the 1980s, when the brothers are eccentric old gents sleeping side by side in their late parents’ bed, the book then retreats to the beginning: at the turn of the last century ornery Amos Jones fell for an educated rector’s daughter and their volatile relationship played out at The Vision farm. One son was caught up in the First World War, one had love affairs; neither “ever strayed further than Hereford.” Through sickness, community scandal, and the rise and fall of fortunes, they remain wedded to Welsh village life.

I especially loved Chatwin’s descriptions of the natural world (he’d visited Radnorshire as a boy and considered it a kind of spiritual home), and the glimpses he gives into the twins’ preternatural closeness:
Lewis and Benjamin gambolled ahead, put up grouse, played finger-football with rabbit-droppings, peered over the precipice onto the backs of kestrels and ravens and, every now and then, crept off into the bracken, and hid. They liked to pretend they were lost in a forest, like the Twins in Grimms’ fairy-tale, and that each stalk of bracken was the trunk of a forest tree. … They lay on their backs and gazed on the clouds that crossed the fretted patches of sky … they would press their foreheads together, each twin losing himself in the other’s grey eye.

(Clearance book from Blackwell’s in Oxford.)

Originally published with images on my blog, Bookish Beck.
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Reading Progress

April 2, 2017 – Started Reading
April 2, 2017 – Shelved
April 2, 2017 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
April 2, 2017 – Shelved as: hay-on-wye
April 15, 2017 – Finished Reading
April 29, 2017 – Shelved as: obscure-classics
April 29, 2017 – Shelved as: reviewed-for-blog
April 24, 2019 – Shelved as: twins

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