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Ulverton Paperback – 6 May 1993


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (6 May 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749397047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749397043
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 571,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

From its first page, you're aware that you are in the presence of a writer with exceptional gifts. By the final one, you know he has used them to create a masterpiece (Peter Kemp Sunday Times)

If you believe English fiction is jaded, you must read Adam Thorpe... Tender, precise, tragicomic and unsentimental (Hilary Mantel Independent on Sunday)

We aren't used to the many deep matters Thorpe touches on, nor to such a thorough grasp of the complex nature of our rural past, and through it, of all existence itself... Suddenly English lives again (John Fowles Guardian)

These stories sing like psalms, robust and vibrant - a poet's novel and a celebration that no social historian would dare attempt (Observer)

One of the great British fictional works of our time (LA Times)

Book Description

The sensational debut novel by Adam Thorpe, now regarded as a 20th century classic.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Jan. 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book kept me reading through its various changes of voice. After a slighter initial story the book quickly picks up with its different tones and experiences. Particularly striking are narratives in the voice of the Book of Common Prayer and from the year 1887. This book is worth savouring and revisiting. It presents a highly moral collection of stories, with a vivid sense of humour and grasp of thought processes. It is fascinating to listen to people deluding themselves about their motives. I would advise you to read it.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Kenneth W. Douglas on 5 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
"Ulverton" must be the most remarkable first novel published in the U.K. for many long years, and certainly has a place on my all-time Top Ten. Like so much of Thorpe's work, it is about the crucial things never said, things never known that fall into the gap between real human lives and recorded history: the twelve linked stories which make up the novel read almost like "dead letters" never sent, from a succession of remarkable historical voices.
Structurally, the book is fascinating: this is Thorpe at his most thrillingly experimental (I do feel, after the equally fine "Still", he has lost his edge a little in his later work). This is a novel composed of a series of twelve short stories, which are mainly first-person accounts by a variety of motley characters from the sixteenth to the late twentieth century, all living in the vicinity of the fictional English village of Ulverton. The characters and events mentioned in each story recur unexpectedly in following stories, but time moves forwards forty or fifty years each chapter: this allows Thorpe to show us the gap between the historical perception of people and their true lives and motivations, with both irony and pathos.
Above all, Thorpe accurately captures the random, literally chaotic nature of history (the flap of a butterfly's wings, etc.) - as the nursery rhyme tells us, the want of a nail ultimately caused the loss of the battle, and the cover art here is wonderfully appropriate.
If this all sounds a bit dry, I should say that Thorpe has a remarkable gift for getting into his character's heads and capturing their very different voices, and he gives us a succession of remarkably moving, sometimes tragic tales. This is real living history, and a thrillingly original read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sian on 19 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is with me for the rest of my life. I drive past a village (any village) and I see a church tower or a beautiful field, an old man, a war memorial, or a ramshackle pub and up pops 'Ulverton'. This is rural Britain in focus. It opens minds to what has been, what is and what will (or may) be. We are living history, we are responsible for what happens next. Ulverton didn't teach me that but it reminded me so strongly that my life is influenced, my actions are influenced and my eyes are more open than they were before I read the tales.

A series of simple, yet compelling tales with 50 year gaps in between. Based in the same small village. Tales of small lives that live on in many different ways. Starting with the Civil War ending with modern day - so much has changed and yet so little.

There is that unpunctuated 'Adam Thorpe' chapter and hard to read - it's OK not to read it! I lost little of the power of the book by skipping it.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a breathtaking book which traces the history of the fictitious English village of Ulverton via a series of short stories. It gives a real sense of how the present is the sum of all things past, and the way in which real events can be distorted and misinterpreted by history. This is one of those very few books that really can change the way you look at life - I read it seven years ago, and the insights gained are as fresh now as they were then.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Peter Swallow on 25 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
I have just finished rereading Ulverton. The first reading was about ten years ago, and several of the episodes, and several sharp images, had stuck in my mind since then, although, interestingly, several of them I had forgotten completely.

This is not a collection of short stories : to say that gives a completely wrong impression of this book. It is a generic whole, riveted together by people from the same families living through 3 centuries, 1650 - 1988 in the same location, the village of Ulverton. Thus names and places traverse the years with the differences you would expect - one of the elms of 5 Elms Farm falls, a wooden gate and a solid wooden table outlive their makers by far.

However, initially, people knew who made these artefacts and tell each other from generation to generation, albeit with small slips creeping in; also, originally, people knew the real stories transforming them little by little into country lore. Towards the end, I suppose inevitably, the new (horrible?) people in the last chapters, despite roots in the village, throw out the same artefacts, burning and destroying them, to make way for the new age.

This 'progress' leads not forwards but to ruin.

Some of the chapters are unbearably moving; Adam Thorpe's skill is to let them stand without pathos, drama or sentiment. Life was harder in the past but the Ulvertonians just got on with it. From the point of view of the writing, the book is an extraordinary tour de force of both research and imagination. Thorpe's command of the language is nothing short of astonishing. Each chapter has its own voice appropriate to the social station of the character and in their own ways, the rich people's lives were just as hard as the poor people's.
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