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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skallagrigg is a �must read� novel, meaty & diverse!
Skallagrigg is a novel which breaks all the conventional rules generally acknowledged to produce books of quality. It has two main characters, a multitude of secondary characters, two main stories running concurrently and a myriad of intricate sub plots but suprisingly this break away from convention works.
William Horwood successfully converts a complex idea...
Published on 17 Sept. 2000

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars did not even get to the end which is unusual ...
did not even get to the end which is unusual for me, however i have decided now life is too short to persevere with a book i am not enjoying !!
Published 5 months ago by ryalto


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skallagrigg is a �must read� novel, meaty & diverse!, 17 Sept. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Skallagrigg (Paperback)
Skallagrigg is a novel which breaks all the conventional rules generally acknowledged to produce books of quality. It has two main characters, a multitude of secondary characters, two main stories running concurrently and a myriad of intricate sub plots but suprisingly this break away from convention works.
William Horwood successfully converts a complex idea into a readable format by breaking the novel into five parts each containing its own driving force whilst maintaining the central thread which runs throughout the book, namely, the Skallagrigg theme.
In part one we are introduced to Arthur a young boy with cerebral palsy. Set in the North of England in 1927 we accompany the vulnerable seven year old as he is taken from the bosom of his family into an institution. Labelled a congenital idiot he is sentenced to a lifetime of abuse by staff and inmates alike.
Horwood has done his research well, so well in fact that you forget it is fictional. His power of description is so vivid you can almost smell the fear as the despicable orderly Dilke walks into the terror filled wards brandishing a window hook and exerting his power over the helpless victims.
Arthur's physical being is protected by Frank a fellow inmate who is able to understand Arthur's strangled speech. When Frank isn't able to come to his aid Arthur gains strength from Skallagrigg, a seemingly mystical entity which gives Arthur the courage to survive many ordeals.
In part two we meet Esther Marquand, a young girl with cerebral palsy who having had the advantages of modern developments in the field of caring and educating disabled children has experienced a very different yet strangely similar life-style to Arthur. Esther's life is not without trauma, throughout the book we see her struggle with the confinements of her disabiliy, death, love, relationships and rejection to name but a few.
In the final three parts of the book we accompany Esther on two journeys the first tracing the source of the Skallagrigg stories - Arthur, and the second a journey of self discovery. Throughout the remainder of the novel the emphasis see-saws between the two journeys and this sustains the momentum until the concluding pages.
When we discover the meaning of Arthur's Skallagrigg one is surprised yet the scenario is so realistically portrayed that you don't feel cheated. The author manages to find the balance between giving one enough clues without spoiling the conclusion. One important thing you learn whilst reading this book is that we all have our own Skallagrigg some call it faith, ambition, even a crutch but the label we give it is inconsequential as long as it gives you the strength to get through life.
William Horwood starts out with a fistful of loose threads and as the story unfolds you watch the threads weaving together to produce a rich, colourful tapestry of people, places, relationships, secrets, ambitions and memories. An unexpected yet entertaining denouement brings the story to a satisfactory conclusion tying up all the loose ends.
Horwood is best remembered for his Duncton Wood novels a series of books following the antics of anthropomorphised moles and even though these books have received a higher profile one shouldn't underestimate the quality of Skallagrigg. Despite being a formidable 728 pages long once you have dipped your toe into the powerful story line you are engulfed in the plot, enticed to grow with the characters and taken on a stormy journey full of discoveries. A "must read" novel, I feel certain that you won't be disappointed!
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest books ever written, 21 Jan. 2004
By 
Roger Boon (Llandudno,Wales,UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Skallagrigg (Paperback)
I first read "Skallagrigg" in 1988 and believe that it is the finest novel by an author I consider to be the greatest english writer of the latter part of the twentieth century.It is the ultimate "quest" novel: not only does it tell the immensely moving story of Esther's inspired search for the abandoned Arthur, but at a deeper psychological and spiritual level it also challenges us to search for the meaning and identity of the Skallgrigg for ourselves. Although it moved me to tears, its celebration of the redemptive power of love was matched by an unflinching recognition of the appalling way we have until very recently in this country (and sadly still elsewhere) treated those who suffer from disabilities like Esther's and Arthur's.A treatment so vividly expressed in the evil and everlooming presence of the character, Dilke. I have given almost 50 copies of this wonderful book to friends and only two have failed to contact me to convey their joy at reading it.The film which was made of it could not sadly begin to penetrate the depths to which Horwood's imagination compels us.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book of all time, 5 Jun. 2003
By 
charlotte morse (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Skallagrigg (Paperback)
I first read Skallagrigg when my son who has Down's syndrome was 6 months old. It opened a door for me and gave me insight into my new and scarey world of the disabled. Estha's friend Tom is a very special person to me.
All that I have learnt from this book will stay with me for the rest of my life......... and I will never again only speak to the person pushing the wheelchair but most importantly to the person in it !!
My son is now 15 (and very like Tom I have to say !!!), I have read Skallagrigg three times more since then and every time it's as good as the last. Today I have had to buy a new copy of this very special book as the inevitable has happened.....on lending it, it was not returned!
WARNING: Never lend this book as whoever reads it will not want to return it!!!!
It is a book that you will want to keep for ever.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest books ever written, 21 Jan. 2004
By 
Roger Boon (Llandudno,Wales,UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Skallagrigg (Paperback)
This I believe is the finest novel by an author I consider to be the greatest english writer of the latter part of the twentieth century.It is the ultimate "quest" novel: not only does it tell the immensely moving story of Esther's inspired search for the abandoned Arthur, but at a deeper psychological and spiritual level it also challenges us to search for the meaning and identity of the Skallgrigg for ourselves. Although it moved me to tears, its celebration of the redemptive power of love was matched by an unflinching recognition of the appalling way we have until very recently in this country (and sadly still elsewhere) treated those who suffer from disabilities like Esther's and Arthur's.A treatment so vividly expressed in the evil and everlooming presence of the character, Dilke. I have given almost 50 copies of this wonderful book to friends and only two have failed to contact me to convey their joy at reading it.The film which was made of it could not sadly begin to penetrate the depths to which Horwood's imagination compels us.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily makes my top five, 4 April 2007
By 
Lance Mitchell (Hampshire, UK, Northern Hemisphere, Planet Earth) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Skallagrigg (Paperback)
I have always been a prolific reader and sometimes have as many as five books on the go at any one time, picking up the one which most suits my mood.

This book is absolutely brilliant and so beautifully touches the emotions of the reader. It made me laugh and it made me cry. I cried often and long and deep.

It is clear that William Horwood has been close to cerebral palsy and his daughter, Rachel, does suffer from this condition.

The central figures are Arthur, a sufferer from the early part of the twentieth century, and Esther, a sufferer from the latter part of the same century. It explores the massive differences between the ways that they were perceived and the ways that they were treated because of those perceptions.

Esther embarks on a quest to find Skallagrigg, without knowing what it is, and you must read the book to find out if she succeeds, and what it means.

The reader is drawn into the characters and I found myself living the roller coaster emotional existence of both of them.

I am constantly recommending this book to friends and family. Many of them find it difficult to get into the story but I encourage them to persevere. Whilst I can understand their difficulty, I had no trouble whatsoever and was captured from the first paragraph.

If you are only ever going to read one more book in your life, it would have to be this one and no other. Trust me!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has got to be owned, you will want to revisit it., 24 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Skallagrigg (Paperback)
This book caught my eye with it's unique title, and I went into it cold and uninformed, having never heard of it before. The narrative is very visual and powerful. Within the first chapter I was seduced by the subtle sense of mystery and and the overpowering sense that something big was about to happen. A young woman with cerebral palsy unlocks the secrets behind the legend of the Skallagrigg. Searching for the truth behind the myth, she takes you with her on an emotional and psychological journey which will make you laugh and make you cry. Be warned that the beauty, the pain, the injustice and the tragedy that unfold with this story will leave you changed forever. But the change will be good.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skallagrigg, 8 Dec. 2006
By 
This review is from: Skallagrigg (Paperback)
This wonderful book was recommended to me, but with no clue as to its mesmerising theme. Indeed, if I had known the subject matter, it may well have put me off reading it. (How misguided our preconceptions can be!) Sadly, I have little time to read generally, but Skallagrigg came on holiday with me and never left my side.

It is an awesome read of epic proportions, which kept me turning the pages and wishing I could read faster! I was suffering sleep deprivation by the end of it and felt emotionally drained. I immediately re-read the first two sections, which were brought even further to life in the light of the knowledge accrued in the subsequent three sections.

The research undertaken by the author is meticulous and the attention to detail seems to render the story to be a real account of Esther's life, rather than a fictional one. If I could have awarded further stars, I would gladly have done so.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Singular Special Tale and yet so much more......, 23 Nov. 2012
By 
Paul W. Morgan (Liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Skallagrigg (Paperback)
I am not sure where one can place this book.
Do I think it is one of the best books ever written? No, I can't give it that accolade for so many reasons.
It is a truly individual and personal book and to that end and after reading and re-reading over the years, the nearest I can come to placing it somewhere, is that is a book that you will either get and it will get you unlike any other book, or it will leave you on the sidelines wondering at all the praise.
From friends reactions they really do seem to fall at either end of the scale, no one seems to come away from it as 'yes, it was an ok read, nothing speacial but I enjoyed the story.' Again I am sure that this is also due to the singular and personal nature of the book.
For me personally, it was akin to being allowed into a very special secret that not only fascinated me but had a huge effect on me in many many ways. I did also feel at times, rightly so one may add, that parts of this story simply are not mine to know or understand and so at times I did feel a little like a bystander trying to grasp at straws in the wind. After the time I have soent with this story, I do believe that it truly is an epic tale, much too big for a single book, maybe too big for a single author, this led me to be dissappointed with the tv adaptation. There never was a chance that the 'soul' of this story could ever be narrowed down for the fractal zoom microscope of the tv screen.
I am suprised that it has not been republished nor added to kindle as I am sure that there is now a new set of people who will want to be let into Skallagrig's secrets, though equally a whole group of others that simply will not 'get it' at all.
I could only ever give it a rating of 5 stars, and would and still do reccomend friends to read it, though my paperback is starting to show its age and effects of so many many page turnings.
So not a masterpiece, not one of the greatest books ever, but a very special world that you can be allowed into for a while or that will leave you outside on the road side wondering again just what all the fuss was about.
I am truly glad, and also truly blessed, that I found this book and have been into its secrets every time i sit down to read it again, and ultimately can only offer many many thanks to William Horwood, and as I said previously hope that it does have a deserved re publication and also introduced to kindle readers too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If I could give it ten stars I would. My favourite book of all time., 16 April 2009
This review is from: Skallagrigg (Paperback)
I usually find it fairly straightforward to review a book, as I know what sort of writing I like, what works for me and what doesn't. With this book, however, I am at a loss for what to write: William Horwood casts such a convincing spell on his readers it is impossible to pinpoint how he does it. I rave about it to anyone who will listen; it is simply the best book I have ever read, or probably ever will read.

That said, I will do my best to give a helpful review.
- Skallagrigg weaves together the two stories of Arthur and Esther. Both suffer from cerebral palsy, but under very different circumstances. They both believe in the Skallagrigg, a being that has taken on legendary status as a saviour for people with cerebral palsy. The story is basically that of a quest, as Esther sets out to discover and solve the myth of the Skallagrigg.
- This book made me cry. It is the only book that has ever done that. The reason for that is simply that William Horwood knows how to write in an exquisitely beautiful, but simple, way: one reviewer is quoted as saying 'some of the passages could wring tears from a stone' (or something similiar); I'm not sure who said that but it's definitely true.
- Another reason it made me cry is that Horwood is a master of characterisation. The characters seemed entirely real to me - in fact it was hard to believe they were not - and this, for me, is the essence of good fiction. I have to really care about the characters. Horwood doesn't make heroes or victims of his characters just because they are disabled (which is often the case in fiction); they are rounded people with strengths and flaws like anyone else.
- The ongoing mystery surrounding the Skallagrigg is truly compelling, and isn't solved until the very end.
- It gives real insight into the shocking nature of mental institutions from the early twentieth century, when people with cerebral palsy were treated as idiots. I found this absolutely shocking and it drew me strongly into the story.
I don't want to say anything else without spoiling what happens. I don't tend to gush about books (as you can see from my other reviews)and try to be fairly balanced; however I cannot recommend Skallagrigg highly enough, it really does have the power to change the way you see the world. Worthy of ten stars at least!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotional Wringer, 13 Dec. 2002
By 
S. Muir (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Skallagrigg (Paperback)
Forget your fantasy books with the never ending quests for Sword of Yakmana or the Beard of Ning Nong Po; this is THE QUEST. I first read this book in about 1991 (I think). I sobbed with sadness, joy and realisation, usually consecutively, and never left the house for the two days it took me to read. I'm now onto my 3rd copy of the book having worn out one and lent out (never to be returned) the other. What shines through in this book is the touching,true beauty of friendship. Please let Esther and Arthur into your life. You won't regret it
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Skallagrigg
Skallagrigg by William Horwood (Paperback - 7 April 1988)
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