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A complex and sometimes difficult read but one that will be rewarding to the right reader,
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This review is from: Purefinder (Paperback)
Gwalchmi has created a phantasmagorical journey through 1858 London. Purefoy is a "Purefinder", a collector of s*** (called Pure in slang) which is sold to the tanners.
"Though they called it mud, everyone in London knew what they were treading on. There were children who remained barefoot throughout the day so that they could get it between their toes. Their only sand was manure"
A child is killed and Purefoy is collared by the enigmatic pseudonymous Murphy as the culprit to be taken to justice. The two then embark on a foot journey across the city which serves to explore 1850's London through their eyes. It is not an easy book to read, Gwalchmi's prose often needs for you to work at it to glean the meaning and occasionally was a little too obscure for this reader. There is not much in the way of plot, being more a development of the two men's relationship and what has brought them both to this time and place. A smorgasboard of odd characters are encountered and interacted with, my favourites being the street gang known as the "Mighty Cabinet Group" because "if you cross them you'll end up in a cabinet". The book is full of cant and slang and language and most notably several dialogues in Welsh (translation is provided) and Gwalchmi is obviously enjoying himself digging in the rich soil of British language.
"London has always been a polyglot. London is where we run to hear new, fantastical imaginings of language; where we wrap ourselves in foreign matter in the knowledge that a cocoon of experience will enable us to lose and warm ourselves until we've wings enough to take our newly communicative selves elsewhere. The City speaks only one language, London speaks with infinite variations."
The journey, highlighting as it does the London poor, is a juxtaposition with today's austerity society, several times the characters speak of what it would be like in 150 years' time. Through it all runs the rivers and the streets which serve as characters on their own.
The back reads "Purefinder is a Gothic-horror historical thriller with a metaphysical edge; a circadian, Dantean exploration of London, loss, and fraternity; mystery, blood, mud, and guts combined; Rabelaisian relief; human tragedy; and the important questions at the heart of any time" and that summation sentence is more in keeping with the text than any I could attempt. This isn't a forgettable book and some of the imagery will stay with me, probably as I had to be wide awake and paying attention whenever I picked up the book.