10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tantalising and cathartic....
I first read Weirdstone and Gomrath over 40 years ago, aged 8. Weirdstone was the first book I ever bought for myself via the newly instigated school book club. It changed my life and Gomrath remains one of my favourite books, far deeper than it seems. Many have found the end of Gomrath unsatisfying; for me it was the perfect ending, leaving your imagination to run free,...
Published on 17 Dec. 2012 by Lanjis Liho
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you liked the Weirdstone Books...
Then the odds are you will read this, but you probably won't like it.
It is clear that Alan Garner has more affinity with the turn his writing took with Red Shift and is trying to tie up his earlier works to this concept of time and myth. If you liked Red Shift better than Moon of Gomrath you will be in a minority, but you will love the book.
Published on 4 Feb. 2013 by C. V. Gidlow
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tantalising and cathartic....,
I first read Weirdstone and Gomrath over 40 years ago, aged 8. Weirdstone was the first book I ever bought for myself via the newly instigated school book club. It changed my life and Gomrath remains one of my favourite books, far deeper than it seems. Many have found the end of Gomrath unsatisfying; for me it was the perfect ending, leaving your imagination to run free, providing the signposts but leaving you to draw the map. I didn't want or need a sequel and so it was with some trepidation that I approached Boneland, although thankfully I'd read Garner's later work and so didn't expect a re-run of the early books.
What I got was even more than I expected. Densely layered, complex and detailed, poetic and mythical, deeply unsettling and deeply moving, I felt like Garner had somehow hooked into my subconscious and pushed buttons that I didn't even know existed; in some ways I felt I WAS Colin. I had spread the read out over a week (it's a fairly short book) and twice in the week woke up drenched in sweat and terrified for reasons that I couldn't quite grasp. It affected me in a way that no other book has and I can't get it out of my head.
Was it satisfying? No, simply because I will be picking the threads and turning it over in my head, analysing and reappraising for years to come, through reread after reread, and the denouement (or the implications of it) is difficult to say the least. But that I suspect is what Garner intends.
If you expect a third book in the style of the first two you'll be disappointed; in fact you may even be rather disturbed. If you're prepared to both think and feel beyond the norm, buy it. Alan, thank you. Again.
59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning twist,
"Boneland" is the belated and final part to Alan Garner's "The Weirdstone of Brisingamen" trilogy. However, it is not so much a conclusion as an exclamation mark at the end of the tale. As others have commented, the narrative style and themes of the book are much closer to "Red Shift" (my favourite of all his novels) and his later work than Weirdstone and "The Moon of Gomrath" and anyone expected it to flow seamlessly from the latter is likely to be disappointed.
Like "Red Shift" one of the central themes of the novel is the cyclical nature of history and myth. We all like to think that our life stories are unique, but really we are just repeating what has gone before many, many times. It is easy to read too much into that though and there is no need to presume that it implies reincarnation (though "Red Shift" does appear to suggest that) so much as just an understanding that human experience is shared through the ages.
"Boneland" follows the structure of "Red Shift" by having intertwining stories separated by time if not space. The first concerns Colin, some 50 years on from being the young hero of the first two Weirdstone books, and the Watcher, a hominid living, like Colin, on Alderley Edge but some 1-2 million years ago. The key to reading the novel is to recognise the parallels between the Watcher and Colin. This provides the code for understanding the significance of the first two parts of the trilogy and what that story means to Colin today. The lives of the two characters are linking by a hand axe (again echoing "Red Shift"), used by the Watcher to carve images in the rocks of Alderley Edge and now in Colin's possession.
The Watcher is shaman-like character who is unable to distinguish between the inner world of imagination and dreams and the external reality of ice, blood and hunger. The mythic reality notion of "As above, so below" is a meme that is central to the narrative and the realisation that the mind can create an alternative reality, expressed in stories and dreams, that can in turn influence and shape the outer reality is key to understanding what happened to Colin as a child.
The Watcher cuts the shape of animals in rock, and through those shapes he can connect, in his imagination, to their spirits. He is, though, the last of his tribe if not his species and tries but fails to draw a female to him by cutting the shape of a woman into the rock. Instead, at the point of despair, he is found by a group of the new interlopers, Homo sapiens, who provide him shelter and sustenance: "I sang and danced, and cut a woman for me to fetch a child for me to teach to dance and sing and cut. But you have come, not she." They listen to him with sympathy, but understand that his reality is different to theirs: "It is a true Story, said the other. It is a true Dream."
In 2012 Colin, now in his early 60s and a professor working at Jodrell Bank, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His erratic and eccentric behaviour causes alarm to his colleagues, his doctor and members of the public, and he realises he needs urgent help. His breakdown has been caused by unresolved issues from his childhood, when he suffered two major traumas in a short space of time. The first involved the sudden disappearance of this twin sister Susan at the age of 12. The second occurred shortly afterwards when he was struck by lightning on Alderley Edge. Lucky to live, the violence of the shock caused him to lose all his memories prior to that point, but may have been responsible for his genius-like intellect and perfect recall of everything that has happened to him since then.
Locked out from his true memories of his missing sister, Colin creates a mythic reality to explain her disappearance, and this is the story told in "The Weirdstone of Brisingamen" and "The Moon of Gomrath". In this fantasy realm, Susan is quite literally deified and her disappearance is a result of her ascending as a Goddess. Also in the fantasy, however, is another female character, the witch Morrigan. She is the diametric opposite of Susan, sinister and malicious compared to Susan's innocence and purity. This dichotomy sets up conflict within Colin, which needs to be resolved if he is to find a way to manage his childhood trauma. His inner self finds the solution by creating a third woman, the psychoanalyst Meg, a synthesis of Susan and the Morrigan, who is able to challenge and support him to confront his demons and ask the central question, who is Susan? He receives the answer he needs to be able to move on: "'Who are you?' he said. `You'."
Colin realises that the Triple Goddess he has created, Maiden, Mother and Crone, is part of him and will be with him always, and by understanding that he no longer has to search for the Maiden nor fear the Crone, he can stop hurting. The Susan in Colin's story was cut from his imagination and lost memories in the same way that the Watcher cut a woman from the stone: just a story, just a dream. But that doesn't mean that she is any less real, or the story she inhabits any less relevant, than any other part of Colin's life, and it has been a privilege to hear their tale.
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsure at first but given some thought... highly recommended,
Like many others I read Boneland as a much awaited sequel to WoB and MoG. I'd already read reports that the novel would be Garner in 'grown-up' mode and I eagerly anticipated a conclusion to the story.
I read the novel in two sittings, roughly half and half. After reading the first half I was in two minds, I didn't warm to Meg's dialogue and wondered where Garner was going with the parallel narratives.
However, having paused for thought I started to see the novel as in a different light. Familiarity drew me in and I began to recognize the backdrop from the previous books. As a grown up I've often wondered what the magic of childhood turns into with maturity of mind, and I think that Garner has attempted to capture that place in the adult abstract mind between myth/magic and rational thought.
Psychotherapy investigates childhood fears translated into adult terms and I think Garner is brave to use this as the vehicle for discovery and, for me, this was the weakest aspect of the novel. Yet I have to question how he would have done it otherwise.
To me, Meg represents the reason that comes with maturity before (or to prevent) aged bitterness sets in. I love the triple goddess references and its link to 'growing up'.
Lined up with Colin's quest for understanding, I do feel the novel reached a conclusion; not the simple and satisfying conclusion reached children's literature, but a more complex conclusion that life's unanswered questions give us if we dig deep. But that's just me. As another reviewer pointed out, different people will get different things from this book depending on their own perspective and understanding.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally... a sense of closure,
A lifetime ago I read the Weirdstone and Moon of Gomrath and I can honestly say they changed my life. They launched me on a forty year interest in early British history, Norse myth and Arthurian legend. An interest that quickly broadened into a fascination with all history. I owe a great debt to Alan Garner. So I was excited to discover that he had finally written a conclusion to the Weirdstone trilogy.
I suppose I should have guessed that in the intervening decades the author would himself have moved on, especially as Garner is always such an original and innovative writer. As a narrative it could stand on its own without having read the previous two books, but knowing them adds far more to the mix. The style is different, more complex, and he plays with time shifting in a way similar to Red Shift. The setting is still Alderley and the Cheshire Plain, and for me personally there was a tingle to read again the words, "by Seven Firs and Goldenstone and Stormy Point to Saddlebole" - a phrase so redolent of the early books.
In a recent radio interview Garner said how he had come to loathe Colin and Susan after the first two books, which is why perhaps it took so long for the completion of the trilogy. It also perhaps explains his attitude to them now. Susan is dead and her absence/presence weaves its way through the book, driving many of the scenes and some of the action. Colin is a tortured soul with deep emotional problems, sometimes avoiding and sometimes seeking release. There is much scientific data woven into the text via Colin, and you sense both his and Garner's fascination, as before, with the mystical aspects of space and time.
The economy and poetic quality of Garner's writing can always be taken for granted. Whether the book is your style is, of course, a matter for personal response. The twist at the end took me by surprise. There is closure both for Colin and, I suspect, for Alan Garner too. And for me...? Yes. It's that feeling you get when you keep re-reading the last page wanting there to be more and knowing there never ever will be. If you've travelled this far in life with Garner, stay faithful; complete the journey.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Garner's mythology brought to an agonizing close,
A couple of months ago, in preparation for this new novel, I reread my ageing copies of the first two books in this series (complete with "Kings College School, Form 1C, Form Prize, J D Briggs, July 1967") with a very different eye - still brilliant, but not the way I remember them as a child.
I then read his autobiographical lectures (The Voice That Thunders) and discovered a complex man - who has spent all his life on or near the scene of the Weirdstone stories, and whose life has been coloured by the myths and legends that haunt this very special place.
So here we are. Over 50 years later with a parallel history story of the grown-up version of Weirdstone. And strange it is too - I had no idea what to expect, but was so enthralled that I read it all in one sitting.
I did wonder how he would be able to bring the children's mythology of the Weirdstone into adult life - and there are no goblins or elves in this one. But we do see glimpses of this past, as the old Colin tries to come to terms with the loss of his twin sister.
But this is mostly an exploration/explanation of how Alan Garner sees the mythology of his adored Alderley Edge entwined in the reality of the place - the ancient history (from the Stone Age) which still resonates today in the hills and the stones. How the echoes of the Stone Age shaman, desperate to keep the Sun rising every day with his dancing and chanting, have imbued the place with his spirit (and which I suspect has crept into Alan Garner's soul).
I will read this again - slower this time so that I can bask in Garner's elegant sparse prose.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't approach with just the nostalgia of childhood as this is only going to upset you,
Almost every single one of Alan Garner's novels, bar maybe the The Owl Service, pour their individual narratives into this book. If you have read Elidor you will realise he is not afraid of dark endings to tales about children. If you have read Red Shift you won't be surprised at deep parallel times and astronomical elements being part of the mix. If all you have read is just The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath you really, really ought not to read this book as it is only going to upset you. If you want to keep that lighter, easier, childhood memory just stop at The Moon of Gomrath.
If however you are made of stronger stuff and want to complete the "trilogy" it is worth it but you really to arm yourself first with by, at very least, reading Red Shift, Strandloper, Thursbitch and the The Stone Book Quartet- and it probably wouldn't hurt either to read Elidor and The Owl Service just to get accustomed to his darkening tone...
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing, but read the first two in the trilogy straight before,
I loved this book. I know Alderley Edge really well which helps to visualise his descriptions, but it also highlights what a fantastic and imaginative writer he is in the way he brings a totally new perspective to it. I hadn't read the first two in the trilogy recently before picking up this book but I would strongly recommend doing so because it took a while to get into this one. Having said that I couldn't put it down, and it was great to be reading something that made me think and asked me to puzzle it out. His character development is amazing. I had no idea what was coming at the end until I was nearly there. Loved it.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Myth, landscape and language,
Boneland is Alan Garner's adult sequel to his two children's books, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, modern classics in which two children find themselves dragged into an age-old battle between mythical forces in the ancient countryside of Alderley Edge. They're eerie, gripping and full of peril, and are strongly rooted in a sense of place and an obsession with shifts in time and repeating cycles of mythology that characterise all Garner's work. They are also, however, relatively straightforward in plot and structure, and can also be read as nothing more than children's fantasy adventure stories.
Boneland, on the other hand, despite featuring Weirdstone's Colin Whisterfield as its protagonist, is far more akin to Garner's later work for adults - Thursbitch, for instance - or his more 'difficult' children's novels, Red Shift and The Owl Service. Colin, now in his 50s, seems to have acquired some sort of disorder in the autistic spectrum: a brilliant scientist plagued with neuroses and phobias, he lives alone in what seems to be a self-built camping barn and works at Jodrell Bank, endlessly pursuing a single line of research and occasionally hospitalised for bouts of an unspecified mental illness. Despite having a photographic memory of everything he has experienced from the age of 13 onwards, prior to this he recalls nothing except that he had a sister, for whom he is continually searching.
Colin's story is interwoven with that of a Stone Age shaman who inhabits the same locations - perhaps thousands of years ago, perhaps at the same time ... or perhaps he's Colin himself. As in Thursbitch, Garner portrays the Cheshire landscape as a living entity in itself, its stone the very bones of the Earth, and time as something far from linear.
At only 149 pages, Boneland is barely more than a novella, and yet into it Garner has managed to cram enough allusions, hints, clues, ambiguities and scope to fill a 1,000-page epic. It's a dizzying read that sometimes seems to make no sense at all and other times, so much sense that it's almost overwhelming.
Like all Garner's later novels, Boneland dwells on themes of myth, landscape and language - and there are times when Garner suggests that these are in fact one and the same thing. This is, as ever, exquisitely expressed in sparse, flint-sharp prose that undercuts the dream-like, almost hallucinatory nature of parts of the book. Every single word counts for something - or more often, for several things - and every aspect of the novel is open to a myriad of interpretations. Is Meg, Colin's unorthodox psychiatrist, a benign mother figure or the malevolent Morrigan of the previous Alderley Edge novels? Is Colin a modern-day incarnation of Gawain, or is he to replace Cadellin, the `good' wizard he and his sister met as a child? And as for his sister, it's not so much a question of where is she now, but who?
It's not so much that Boneland leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It's more that it provides so many answers that we're left to unpick them from a bewildering tangle of possibilities. It's the sort of text that makes you want to underline passages, highlight sections, look up references, all in a bid to solve the puzzle, but without even knowing what the puzzle is - rather like completing a huge, elaborate jigsaw without having access to the picture on the box. I found Boneland to be fascinating, gripping, occasionally frightening and at times desperately sad, and I will undoubtedly be re-reading the other Alderley Edge novels before reading Boneland again (this time, perhaps, with a notebook beside me too).
If I have a criticism, it's that, while it's an immense pleasure to revisit Colin, Garner's beautiful prose and the Weirdstone of Brisingamen world once again, Boneland does, essentially, say much the same thing that all Garner's novels say. His favourite themes happen to be rather well aligned with my own, so I should hardly be in a position to complain, but did I get anything much different from Boneland than I did from, for example, Thursbitch or Strandloper? If I'm being entirely honest, no. This doesn't make Boneland a lesser book, but it does make me long for Garner to explore some entirely different ideas.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gawaine with Aspergers,
Boneland weaves together a sort of Dreamtime story and the story of Colin, now an astrophysicist, in need of psychotherapy from the seductive Meg. After one reading I`m not clear what has happened but I think the allusions to the medieval poem Gawaine and the Green Knight may hold the answer. Phrases like "token of untruth" and "governor of this gang" coupled with the behaviour of Meg and Bert(Bertilak ?) suggest that Colin is a Gawaine figure who needs to forgive himself. But for what ? He is traumatised by the disappearance of his twin sister Susan when she was only twelve and seems to think she may be among the Pleiades. I hope she is and that Colin`s four foot axe has nothing to do with it.
So much is puzzling yet the book is compelling and fascinating. It is also very funny in places, as when Meg reassures Colin his happiness is only "a transient euphoria." It plays with language - "I`m going back to Imazaz ............Imazaz a pub next door." Colin himself has an Asperger trait where he likes to tell Meg rather more than she wants to know about his favourite subjects. Gawaine`s obsession with truth and his endless knot have turned into Colin`s pedantic annoyance over the contemporary misuse of the word "icon."
Those who like a story to tie up all the threads could say the ending shows a re-integration of Colin`s split-off Selves. But where would unmothered Colin find Meg, that exuberant nurturing life-giving figure who zooms up on her motorbike clad in black leathers and helmet (after lopping holly) ? She has all the energy of the Green Knight and the same dismissive way with Colin`s excessive guilt.
By the way, the risselty rosselty song need not be a problem. It`s what the children were singing at the beginning of the Hitchcock film, "The Birds." Another song, "I plink -a-ti-plonk/I Casa-bi-onk" is currently driving me crazy, like the one Colin sings which never reaches the line "Pretty little black-eyed Susie."
On a second and third reading I`m still not sure what kind of book this is. The text seems to reconfigure itself every time I put it down. Is it a modern version of The Waste Land or a modern version of the medieval dream poem where Colin is anaesthetised in the first eight lines and then has a mystical experience ? Whatever it is, it will make you think harder than most other books.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan's best.,
This is as good as fantasy gets. Although fantasy is too restrictive a genre description for this almost poetic end to Alan Garner's trilogy. Don't expect an easy read: although short and typically terse it is as complex as a silicon chip and not as logical. To call it a myth would be misleading but it does operate on a mythic level and deals with enormous issues: death, cosmic distances, our distant almost human past, the nature of loss. As with most of Alan's literature it is set in SE Cheshire and N Staffs and he uses the landscape almost as a character. I genuinely couldn't put the book down and would recommend it to anyone with a propensity for myth and a willingness to explore the mysteries of their own existence.
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Boneland by Alan Garner