Alan Garner: Thursbitch

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With the spirits and boggarts of a pagan England that has never entirely faded Thursbitch alternates between the stories of John Turner and his family in the 18th century and Ian and Sal two academics in the 21st century who are drawn back again and again to the same valleys traversed by John Turner The 18th century dialogue makes use of archaic Cheshire dialect the accuracy of which I can t vouch for but it certain seems authentic I love books written in this fashion see reviews for Riddley Walker The Cloister and the Hearth and The Wake so the added bit of difficulty in parsing the dialogue and having to check an online dictionary and sometimes than one only made the reading fun for meIf you re familiar with Red Shift or others of Garner s later works that aren t expressly for children you know that Garner s storytelling is very elliptical and he doesn t help you out very much if at all A healthy background knowledge in mythology is helpful as well as an ear for language and let us say a certain 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 uite 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 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 flexible than we ever imagined Some actions once lived live on forever 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 agger a peddler who perishes on a snowy night in the first few pages and a uerulous 21st century scientist dying from a degenerative diseaseIf this is genre writing it s a genre specific to Britain I thought of the great novels of John Cowper Powys especially Wolf Solent of Susan Cooper s The Dark is Rising uintet and of the supernatural thrillers of Charles Williams books in which the primordial energies of ancient Britain erupt into contemporary consciousness It s a force Garner takes uite seriously and for anyone attempting this novel his lecture The Valley of the Demon is essential reading You can t help but be impressed by his impressions I ust wish I d liked it The book gave me a headache It will be a relief to return to Ulysses 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 reuires patience and perseverance but the rewards are satisfyingThursbitch is a place tha 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 found this book to be absolutely brilliant Ironically it was the local Derbyshire dialect narrative that I started off liking the least but this was the one I came to enjoy the most as the story progressedThis is a story of two seperate events taking place in the same landscape but the sheer power of the land blurs the boundaries between the past and the present and effectively forms a bridge that only two of the characters are certain they are experiencing The descriptions of the landscape are fantastic and the powerful descriptions of the land as perceived by people who know it so well that every hollow way nook gully stream and brow have their own names and represent elements of old times old gods and older beliefs make the story very compelling The spiritual and physical connection to the land is something that we have lost today We can no longer read or understand our landscape in the same way we move through it but we do not feel it or listen to what the land is telling us This book is a stark reminder of pagan gods and old ways and I loved it. D affects their relationship in the 21st challenging the perceptions they have of themselves and of each other A visionary fable firmly rooted in a verifiable place this novel is an evocation of the lives and the language of all people who are called to the valley of Thursbitc.

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Oned that I was lost while reading this book That is not a complaint in fact I thoroughly enjoyed the confusion and space cadet glow How wonderful sometimes to be intentionally lost 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 how it can be done 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 HERE JOHN TURNER WAS CAST AWAY IN A HEAVY SNOW STORM IN THE NIGHT IN OR ABOUT THE YEAR 1755 THE PRINT OF A WOMAN S SHOE WAS FOUND BY HIS SIDE IN THE SNOW WHERE HE LAY DEADGarner has extrapolated ingeniously upon this enigma bringing the live of John Turner agger a leader of horses salt trader and local medicine man The dark story was largely inspired by Garner s own experience of researching the area finding hidden valleys mysterious stones and knowing farmers It is a detective story across time as the events leading up to Turner s death are revealed in parallel with the rediscovery of the mystery by an ageing couple of the present Ian and Sally a priest doctor and a geologist with a debilitating disease probably Alzheimer s The portrayal of this odd couple intellectual cantankerous and growing old disgracefully is both touching and tough unsentimental in its depiction of the decay of the body and the mind Sally is drawn to the mystery of Thursbitch as she approaches her inevitable endThe characters of both centuries are portrayed almost purely through dialogue realistic if infuriating in its use of argon or dialect Ian and Sally s conversation are as gnomic as the Collouy of the Sages Garner has caught the Cheshire tongue accurately if exhaustingly Like all slang it alienates the outsider The reaction to ramblers by Ian and Sal if funny at times is similar to the insular community of Thursbitch you re not from round here in other words It is a singular place rendered vividly and if nothing else makes one wonder what other mysteries are hidden amongst the villages and valleys of this landGarner has an eye for the mythic in the familiar and here the Old Gods make their presence felt both the Northern and Mediterranean variety Thursbitch tells the tale of the Thunderer and his wife on a human level It depicts in uncompromising and unapologetic frankness the practise of Paganism by a whole community The Wicker Man without Edward Woodward Here in a Pennine Valley is a remnant of an ancient cult Minoan or Mithraic mixed with the Norse The lovers of Brisingamen s heathen pantheon will not be disappointedYet this is a very adult tale about growing old the search for knowledge the nature of time the hardship of life and the mystery of death A tale for the winter years The stark clipped language offers no easy answers It s as though Garner has taken the edict of the Northern poet Basil Bunting s advice in Briggflatt Words are too light take a chisel to write There is a hard poetry about the diction like the Pennine landscape an unyielding austere beauty It takes a while for the ear to attune to this strange music yet it is worth the effort For Thursbitch is the real thing a glimmer of a mystery immanent in the mundane with salt of the earth people interfacing with the divine among the ruins of time 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 inscriptionHERE JOHN TURNER WAS CASTAWAY IN A HEAVYSNOW STORM INTHE NIGHT IN ORABOUT THE YEAR1755And on the obverse sideTHE PRINT OF AWOMANS SHOE WASFOUND BY HIS SIDEIN THE SNOW WHEREHE LAY DEADHaunted 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 order to find out about the story behind it Thursbitch is Garner s attempt to draw the known elements of the story into a novel and an excellent novel it isExploring Garner s favorite themes past events and people encroaching upon those of the present and viceversa and the seeming sentience of rural English landscapes which are imbued. S ancient and static community He brings ideas as well as gifts that have come by many short ourneys from market town to market town and from places as distant as the campfires of the Silk Road John Turner's death in the 18th century leaves an emotional charge Ian and Sal fin.

Impressive uite 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 readi Early Monday morning late on Saturday night I saw ten thousand mile away a house A River of Royal Blood (A River of Royal Blood, just out of sightThe floor was on the ceiling the front was at the back It stood alone between two 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 mystical place in which the characters of the novel also lose themselvesAt least half the novel follows the story of Jack Turner aagger salt vendor in the late 1700s He leads a cult like religious ceremony that involves hallucinations that may or may not be due to his mushrooms I think Jack invokes a mystical bull from the heavens that inhabits his body during the ceremony and the men and women attending the ceremony tear at his body nearly killing him Jack recovers by drinking his own urine I think Besides the ceremony Jack does inexplicable things like carrying a carved stone head from a cave in the valley to his home consider the following passage for a glimpse into the language and mystery Jack carrying and speaking to the stone head Now then old Crom How hast tha been this ourney Did the light hurt thine een Never fret It s done while next time We shall burn bonny fires for thee And Jenkin shall hold stars right runningEh dear We must look a pair you and me But did you see at all your land and did we mind us ways I ll take you down and put you in your bed as soon as stones have done supping at the brook We don t want to be trod on by them great lummoxes Hush now p 74 Later Jack becomes a fire and brimstone Christian pastor preaching to the people of the valley of Thursbitch I think He dies frozen to death next to a single female footprintLike I said I was lost while reading the bookSometimes it s fun to be lost though I lived in London England for a year when I was in my early twenties I would often get intentionally lost in the city and attempt to find my way home The streets of London seem like someone had a perfect grid and then took an egg scrambler to it and added a couple cans of alphabet soup They don t sell maps of the city rather they have A Z pronounced A to Zed books with page after page of maps referencing the names of the streets in the index After a night out or on a slow afternoon I would take the tube or a bus to a far away part of the city I had never visited and wander my way to familiarity I guess I felt like I had something to proveMeanwhile in Thursbitch in modern times a woman Sal short for Sally finds her only solace in the valley of Thursbitch She is dying of a degenerative disease that causes her to lose her memories she is becoming lost in time The valley is the only place her memories seem to stick She also seems to have some preternatural connection to Jack from the 1700 s Thursbitch valley I thinkThe valley of Thursbitch plays a large a part in the novel in fact it is even important than the charactersI understand how important landscapes can be to a story I once visited Venice Italy with my family again in my twenties One day an incredibly thick fog rolled in over the city from the Adriatic Sea While my family stayed in the hotel wishing for a sunnier day I went exploring Most tourists who visit Venice never stray far from the Rialto or the Piazza San Marco I intentionally got lost in the depths of the narrow meandering pathways The memory of that walk is vivid as I could barely see than a few feet ahead of me for the fog every few steps brought something new Ancient buildings on both sides suddenly gave way to modern apartments I reached many a dead end either blocked by a building or one of the ubiuitous canals Lushly carved bridges sprung up abruptly one led into a grove of olive trees I passed fishermen in their noisy boats coming and going on the larger canals and on smaller ones gondolas would slip past silently into the mist I turned one corner and found myself walking behind a beautiful Italian lady She glanced behind her then slightly uickened her pace while I self consciously slowed my pace so as not to seem like a stalker She disappeared into the fog long before the sound of her heels clicking against the stone walkway faded away All the while the water lapped gently against the stones of the tiny islands buildings and passagewaysThere are places in this world in which the individual loses his sense of self in the infinite My experiences in London and Venice reflect this truth In Thursbitch the valley is such a placeI menti. HERE JOHN TURNER WAS CAST AWAY IN A HEAVY SNOW STORM IN THE NIGHT IN THE YEAR 1755 THE PRINT OF A WOMAN'S SHOE WAS FOUND BY HIS SIDE IN THE SNOW WHERE HE LAY DEADJohn Turner was a packman With his train of horses he carried salt and silk across distances incomprehensible to hi.

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