Mark Lawrence's Reviews > Boneland

Boneland by Alan Garner
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Sep 23, 2012

liked it

I often see disparaging reviews (many of them of my own books) begin with 'I wanted to like this', it combines both a sense of personal disappointment in the author along with the double put-down of 'even with a following wind I couldn't like this'.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. This is more by way of personal disappointment in me rather than in Alan Garner. I see Neil Gaiman laud it and damnation I want to be as cool as he is and 'get' this book. I count myself as fairly literary, I love powerful, sparse, poetic prose. I'm not scared of literary or philosophical themes, and like the protagonist in this work I have one foot very firmly in science with the other sliding about in imagination/storytelling/arts/philosophy. On top of all that - I am (or at least was the last time I read them many years ago) a huge fan of the first two books in this trilogy. I've cited Garner as a strong early influence on my writing/the landscape of my imagination.

I went into the book forewarned that this volume was orthogonal to the first two in both style and content. Fifty years stand between the writing of The Moon of Gomrath and Boneland. I don't for a moment think that this book was lightly undertaken or that it isn't underwritten by both profound thought and deep personal significance.

There are passages of considerable power in the book, lines with a spare beauty about them.

_However_ despite all that ... for me the whole thing failed to gell. Much of it felt confused and repetitive. The reason for that no doubt lies in the fact that Garner is trying to put us in the mind of a confused genius struggling with mental health issues and (possibly) in the mind of a long dead man defined by a prehistoric mindset and struggling with a lost mythology.

The thing is ... that it really did read as confused and repetitive. The description was so sparse as to leave me with little to hang on to. I understand that this isn't meant to be an easy book and that it's not intending to give me a riveting story, likeable characters to follow, excitement etc, nor is it going to hold my hand as it runs through its strange landscapes. But ... dammit ... I've been moved/enthralled/intrigued by books like that before ... and this one ... just didn't take me there.

I would love to wax lyrical about the power and genius of Alan Garner. I would love to pat myself on the back for being able to tune into his wavelength and take from this difficult book some sense of awe and wonder, some collection of existential questions that if not answered were at least posed in a way that set me orbiting them.

I just can't.

I hope it works for you.

I found enough beauty and intrigue in it for 3*. 2* would be too harsh. 4* would be a lie.

I do feel as though I failed in reading this book rather than Garner failed in writing it.


[as a side note - the scientist part of this was largely unconvincing to me (as a scientist). I can tell myself that Colin's repeated delivery of constants/durations/distances to a great number of decimal places was to illustrate his Asperger's syndrome rather than his credentials as a scientist (precision in such things not being an important part of scientific discussion), but the whole telescope element was weak. Colin is pointing this very valuable resource at the Pleiades "looking for his sister". I can buy into his logic of belief, non-linear time etc as meaning he hopes for some insight from the study - but the feeling is that 1930s cigar smoking scientists are just having a play and trusting a 'good fellow' to be doing good work. Of course the reality is that he would be working on a project, that project would have been based on a proposal approved by a panel - and so whatever his ulterior motive, people working with him would have a reason for his study and what it hoped to achieve scientifically. There is no hint of this at all in the book and it makes even the 'real' parts of the work seem unreal (to me)]

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Reading Progress

September 23, 2012 – Shelved
October 9, 2014 – Started Reading
October 9, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by T.O. (new)

T.O. Munro I've not read the book, but I appreciate the honest fairness of the review. Reading is an interactive process of perception and response, quality is never absolute and all books must stand or fall by the impression they make on the reader.

The worst review I got ended with the summary "A miss for me, would still try it yourself we are all different." which I have to say is fair comment.


Quinnharley Your words mirror my thoughts on this book. I was definitely someone who 'didn't get it' but I was more upset with myself.


message 3: by Ralph (new)

Ralph Pulner I appreciate the attempt to place the blame on your own shortcomings. Reading preferences are always subjective and I dislike it when people flat out diss an author and try to avoid writing that as well.


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