On Silbury Hill (Little Toller Monographs) Hardcover – 12 Jun 2014
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"There is no contemporary I admire more than Adam Thorpe - His new book On Silbury Hill is an experiment in pyscho-geography, partly a memoir, partly an exploration of the strange prehistoric landscape of Wiltshire - A book that is not only fascinating to read but a pleasure to hold in the hand." (HILARY MANTEL, Vogue) ----- "You should burrow in and discover this for yourself, but what makes On Silbury Hill such a rich and evocative book of place are the myriad two-way hauntings he proposes between people and landscapes over time." (PAUL FARLEY, Guardian) ----- "It seems to me to be everything that a book ought to be or should want to be: beautiful, suggestive, personal, knowing and uncertain, old but of now, funny and modest and ripe in its lived-in ways." (TIM DEE, author of The Running Sky and Four Fields) ----- "In a fascinating series of interwoven strands, this book blends history, myth, archaeology, topography and poetry, and always leads us back to the haunting beauty of the question: 'Why?' " (BEL MOONEY, Daily Mail) ----- "On Silbury Hill [is] a remarkable and moving mix of history, autobiography and genius loci - packed with erudition, enthusiasm and rapt personal engagement." (WILLIAM BOYD, New Statesman Books of the Year) ----- "His writing spills out hot and fierce as summer wind, scouring the chalky, ancient Ridgeway and buffering up against the confounding slopes of Silbury Hill itself, concluding that 'ingenuity and accident and maybe a dose of genius' played their part in its creation. The same could be said of this excellent book." (VICKY CAROL, Big Issue) ----- " - impressive elegance and concision - evocative and moving - a lament for something modern man has largely lost - a deeply personal and idiosyncratic memoir." (ANTHONY HEAD, Times Literary Supplement) ----- "All impressive detective-work and field research aside, On Silbury Hill is a fine stand-alone memoir. But it's more than that. It is a love letter, a homage to an object, a place and a symbol that has provided succour and mystery and hope and wonder." (BEN MYERS, Caught by the River) ----- "A deeply personal book written in precise and beautiful prose." (JOHN OWEN, Country & Town House) "He seeks a blend of the personal and the scientific - that raises profound questions about what archaeology can understand of the past. With the book's attractive feel, and clear and often memorable writing, 'interpretive archaeology' never came so seductively packaged." (MIKE PITTS, British Archaeology) ----- "Honest enough to admit that we cannot hope to do more than conjecture - and yet sympathetic to successive archaeological, psychological, poetic and spiritual interpretations, Thorpe proves an engaging guide to a landscape steeped in secrets." (GREG NEALE, Resurgence & Ecologist) ----- "What I particularly love about the whole book - is the openness of this dry, wry, sometimes angry, often self-deprecating historian to - the intrusion of memory and magic." (RUTH DAVIS, Nature and the common good) ----- "Some books slipped quietly onto the shelves this year, none more so than Adam Thorpe's On Silbury Hill (Little Toller Books, GBP15), a wonderfully idiosyncratic but deeply informed personal essay on what might well be the most mysterious of England's landmarks." (JOHN BURNSIDE, The Herald) **** Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 (August 2014) ***** Longlisted for the Wainwright Prize 2015 ****
About the Author
Adam Thorpe was born in Paris in 1956 and brought up in India, Cameroon and southern England. His first collection of poetry, Mornings in the Baltic, was published in 1988 and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award. His first novel, Ulverton, a panoramic view of rural English history, was published to great critical acclaim in 1992 and is now considered a modern classic. He has since published nine novels, five collections of poetry and two books of short stories. He has also published new translations of Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Emile Zola's Therese Raquin, had a stage play performed almost entirely in Berkshire dialect, and written numerous radio plays. He lives in France with his family and currently teaches at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts de Nimes and at the University of Nimes.
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Top customer reviews
I have been fascinated by the enigmas of Silbury Hill & Avebury stone circle for many years and have read many books published about them.
THIS ONE IS DIFFERENT!
Not a cold archaeological analysis nor a totally new-age take of the cosmic.
Instead, the author has captured the personal, the private affects this remarkable sacred site had on one's (his) psyche as he spent time at the nearby public school at Marlborough.
Many facts and figures and observations / theories about the hill/circle pepper the story, making it interesting on many levels whilst maintaining ones imagination in the actual tales of the authors experiences there.
I have travelled by and scrambled over (in the distant past) Silbury many times in the past and it has become part of my life without realising it. Born and bred in Wiltshire I guess I am a true child of the chalk. It is all I have known, so I feel reasonably well qualified on the subject. Adam Thorpe was educated at Marlborough College close to Silbury, and also lived abroad with his family. Some of these experiences are shared in the book! His path was a very different one to mine, but such privilege does not always bring happiness as he points out. Thorpe is well read and fond of literary quotes, some obvious and some less so. Nice to see my own favourite Richard Jefferies get a mention! Adam Thorpe is a reflective, deep thinking sort and this permeates the book. He does not hide his own personal struggles! Interesting facts about Silbury are not forgotten in this memoir thankfully!
I enjoyed this book very much. It is not perfect, but then what is! Sometimes Thorpe can grate...slow death by quotation in my case, but you can never doubt his genuine passion for his subject. It seems to have been a very personal labour of love, where mega sales were not the point. I was reminded of Jonathan Raban’s own personal memoir “Passage to Juneau” which it resembled in style and tone at times. I loved Thorpe’s very individual reflection on the power of shadows which seemed to get powerfully close to an understanding of our ancestors minds as they painted wonderful works of art in places like Lascaux and Altimira. He shows a good understanding of lives synchronised to the movement of the seasons. It is powerful thought provoking stuff that nuts and bolts history buffs may struggle with, but the sort of book that will reward the more open minded! Little Toller books are beautifully illustrated in fine quality bindings…a collectors dream. This one maintains the high standard set by Oliver Rackham’s superb “The Ash Tree”. Recommended!
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