52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicate and Haunting
This short book packs in a vast panorama - but this unfolds in your head rather than on the page. His poetic evocation of landscape through the lists of wonderful place-names is glorious, and the intertwined ghost stories - each period haunted by the spirits of the other - only become clear as the characters let you into their souls bit by bit.
If you love the...
Published on 11 April 2005 by Mark Shackelford
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I have been reading Alan Garner since the early 1960s when I encountered The Weirdstone of Brisingamen as a child. It is still one of my favourite books and the one I credit with my love of reading. Over the years I have read many of Garner's novels but I have to say that as time went on and his style changed, his books became stranger and harder to follow. This is...
Published 22 months ago by Jenny
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thursbitch,
Powerful well written story that is good enough to stretch the reader mentally and spiritually Full of mystery, I always wanted to read further to find out what the next surprise was to be. Cleverly constructed
4.0 out of 5 stars Four and half stars really, with the fifth halved for obscurity,
My first Alan Garner book and I found it baffling, strange, haunting and wonderful from the very first sentences: "He climbed from Sooker and the snow was drifting. He held Jinney's reins to lift her, and Bryn ran round the back of Samson, Clocky and Maysey, nipping their heels so that they would not drag on the train. They passed Ormes Smithy, up Blaze Hill and along Billinge Side... The wind was full in their faces and the horses were trying to tuck into the bank for shelter, but Bryn kept them from shoving their panniers against the rocks. Now it was dark and the snow was swarming into his lanthorn and he could not see for the whiteness; but he knew the road." He talks to the horses all the way and they follow his voice into the snow.
As well as the story of Jack, the salt merchant caught in a snowstorm some time in the 17th century, there is the 21st century story of Sal and Ian, a couple walking (I think) the Pennine way down into Cheshire. Sal has a degenerative disease and Ian is her carer. In this passage Sal speaks first: "There's the beauty. If we could only dance more, for longer." She stood up. "Instead of games, just word games." Her eyes were bright, "But that would be selfish, wouldn't it?"
Ian replies, "Oh perispomenon." What he means by this is not exactly clear and sounds a tad pretentious. The word is from the Greek, from peri- (around) + spaein to pull, draw. Maybe all it means is "Shut up and let's get going"?
Bees are a distinct feature (and there is a deep structure of bee-lore in this book), as a stone on the spot where Jack is found dead, in the middle of winter, is covered with honey.
In the story of Ian and Sal in the present day, Ian calls out: "I've been stung!"
"Don't move, the bee's all right. It's still attached,"
"I know it's attached!"
"Keep still, don't hurt it."
She held the bee so that it could not fly, then slowly, gently she turned it on his skin until the sting was free. She looked at the bee to check. "There. Off you go. No harm done."
This is an extraordinary book with a sense of deep spirituality and pagan grace. I don't suppose I digested more than a fifth of what it was offering to me, but I loved it. It's a library book but I think I need my own copy.
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting,
Alan Garner is a fascinating story teller, and man, having read a book of his lectures. From one fragment of documented history he creates a very fluid sort of magic. Hard to pin down really but very rooted in something deep in the past, how Man, earth, time and the heavens relate. Very poetic and pared down, some would say surreal. Not an easy read for it is far from 'conventional'. Thursbitch isn't quite as amazing as Strandloper, which I found totally unexpected and breathtaking, but it is just as brilliant. I don't know of story weaving like it, though Norman McCaig, a Scottish poet, wrote the similar sorts of breathtaking.
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange and Stark,
Like all Alan Garner's work, this is beautifully crafted. The reader moves from the usual world of 'what you see is what you get' to one where the laws of cause and effect are twisted and fractured. The looming presence of the other-world grows as the book progresses, until it overshadows our safe day-to-day certainties - a similar effect to that in 'Red Shift', but much more elemental here. Having finished the book, I will lay it aside for a few months before I reread it, in the certainty that other shadows and facets will become apparent.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius loci,
Go see the place then read or vice versa - a slim but incredibly powerful book - quite possibly Alan Garner's masterpiece.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars characters speak for themselves; narrator speak for the landscape,
Alan Garner's mastery of language can never be questioned. After the wilful outpouring of verbiage and meaningless exposition in the last book I read (Marquez), the precision and brevity of Garner's writing was the return of a welcome friend. His method of letting characters speak for themselves whilst letting the narrator speak for the landscape remains both a joy and an inspiration.
His last novel, Strandloper, offered us one of the few twentieth century instances of originality in the narrative form. Its scope was writ large; across the globe, across history and across humanity. In comparison, Thursbitch's scope is perhaps more insular; but in its tale of ordinary folk it elicits more empathy and more passion. It is a yarn of intertwining time periods; of the contentment and responsibility of assured belief and the terror of upheaval and uncertainty.
Like all of Garner's work it imbeds an emotional resonance in the memory as landscape and instance might do. His work goes beyond literature.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars,
Alan garner has a wonderful imagination
4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Glossary essential, so where is it?,
Fascinating book from a great Cheshire writer, but what an opportunity missed by the author and the publishers to elucidate and promote local language. I am north west born and bred and knew about a quarter of the dialect words in this book, it would have been a much richer experience if there had been a glossary.
9 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but hard to follow,
This is two stories in one book. One deals with a modern day couple exploring a valley with a number of standing stones. This part has a couple of twists that generate much sympathy, and some intriguing links with the other story.
The other is the more dramatic - rural, pagan lifestyle focussing on one 'shaman' character, his religious conversion and relationships. Fascinating historically, and in his own experience of the stones and landscape which echo in the later ones, though little is made of this.
The downfall is the language - it's written with a heavy dialect that can be hard to follow, and sometimes it's not clear who is speaking. A reasonable book, but not his best.
17 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Obtuse and frustrating,
I was given this book as a Christmas gift and started it recently. Mercifully, it's a short piece of work. Perhaps I'm missing the point of it all, but I find the themes difficult to follow and my train journey in the morning is not improved by fighting my way through line after line of irritating dialogue in an ancient northern dialect! This is just not my cup of tea I'm afraid.
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Thursbitch by Alan Garner (Hardcover - 2 Oct 2003)
Used & New from: £2.64