Based on the true story of William Buckley, a bricklayer, the novel begins in the rural Cheshire of the 1790s as William and Het are making ready for the annual festival known as Shick-Shack Day. William has been chosen as the village's Shick-Shack - an ancient fertility figure, face blackened with charcoal and bedecked with boughs of oak - and Het is to be his Teaser. But when the local landowner discovers the celebration in the church, William is arrested and sentenced to transportation to New Holland. As he is taken from the church, he vows to Het that he will return. He endures the horrors of the Transport, and lands in the distant continent. Determined to return to Het, William escapes the camp and walks for more than a year in the unbearable heat, convinced that, if he keeps going North, he will reach China and then soon be back home. Finally, starved and delirious, he collapses having crawled to the top of a hillock. It is here, unconscious, on what is the burial mound of Murrangurk, a great hero of their People, that William is discovered by Aborigines, who believe that he is Murrangurk returned from the dead. Over the next thirty-two years, William becomes Murrangurk in reality - the law-giver and healer of the People, a highly initiated, powerful and holy man - brought from the dead for a quest that only he can achieve. When he does, at last, return to England, it is neither as William Buckley nor as Murrangurk, but as "Strandloper." And in a magnificent and redemptive climax, the Dreaming of the Aborigines and the ancient magic of England are fused as one.
Alan Garner was born in Congleton, Cheshire, in 1934. His began writing his first novel at the age of 22 and is renowned as one of Britain's outstanding writers. He has won many prizes for his writing, and, in 2001 he was awarded the OBE for services to literature. He holds two honorary doctorates and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. In 2004 he co-founded The Blackden Trust http://www.theblackdentrust.org.uk/