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Dec 2011
Strandloper - Alan Garner - Harvill Press, 1997
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Despite my huge admiration for the author, I somehow missed this novel when it first came out, so was glad when a friend kindly bought it for me (thanks Dave!). Reading it after Thursbitch is, however, a disconcerting experience, like listening to the movements of a symphony in the wrong order. For if Thursbitch is a grand finale, this is definitely the preceding adagio - slow, technically simple, and for me, as someone who responds more to up-tempo sophistication than to deep feeling, relatively uninteresting. Its plot, based (apparently) on the life of a real person, is more straightforward than most Alan Garner novels, with no clever parallel stories or crossovers in time or space (except in one important respect, to which I'll return). And to be honest, I miss them.
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Nov 2010
Thursbitch - Alan Garner - Vintage, 2004
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Alan Garner is one of my favourite writers who has created some of my most memorable reading experiences. The Owl Service, Elidor and particularly Red Shift (possibly the most upsetting book I've ever read) all stick firmly in the mind.

One of the reasons I like him so much is because of his obvious respect for the intelligence and time of the reader. He is his own most ruthless editor, paring down the dialogue and the description to the bare minimum needed to carry the story and leaving the reader to puzzle out the emotions and the meaning of the sometimes impenetrable dialect in which the characters speak. This last can be taken so far that it becomes a distraction (as it is here), but has the interesting effect of forcing the reader to use the part of the brain normally reserved for reading the rhythms of poetry, enabling Garner to convey impressions and feelings that cannot easily be transmitted by text alone.

This technique results in strongly atmospheric novels in which a sense of power and foreboding hangs over every page. Nowhere is this more evident than in Thursbitch, and here it works particularly well. For the main character is not the four people around whom the story revolves, but the landscape itself.
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