The Tower Paperback – 2 Oct 2003
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Pastoral, Flinty and Fierce The Independent --The Independent
About the Author
Tristan Hughes is a writer. He lives in Atikokan, Ontario.
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Shipping of the product was very prompt.
Each story is self-contained, but gives a strong flavour of the life of the people who pass their lives in the shadow of the Tower. In its heyday as a working mill: as a ruin on the skyline for the hippies in their caravan: as an opportunity for redevelopment to suit the rich newcomers to the island.
Beautifully written: well observed. It rings true. I have seen and met people like all the characters in Anglesey or in other parts of Wales over the past fifty years. If you want a real flavour, this is as good as it gets. Excellent.
A very good addition to Parthian Books impressive array of modern fiction and poetry in the English Language - get them all!
today the world crowding within their lenses is not so vast and populous: no more than a small patch of ground, a hill, the tower that sits upon it, and the piece of sky that hangs above them.
As the cover suggests there are many spectral towers in this collection. The most vivid, lyrical image is that of the first story, the wonderfully named, ‘God’s Breath,’ where it appears as a vision of a working windmill:
painted the brightest of white, which, on sunny days, shone with an almost luminescent quality, as though all the surrounding light were drawn towards it and condensed into its shimmering surfaces; set against the pale blue of a spring sky it flickered and dazzled like some inland lighthouse…. its four great wings an airy constellation spread out across the heavens.
But the mill falls into disrepair and the rest of the stories demonstrate the loss of purpose that accompanies the loss of this celestial vision. The flashy new owner of the tower, a scouser nicknamed ‘Derrick Dallas,’ wants to turn it into a drinking den. Nain dismisses him as one of those ‘Sais moneybags who like to play at being lord of the bloody manor; that’s what they want to be: the lords of all they survey.’ But when we reach Derrick’s story however we find he is losing his ‘vision’ and that, like all the other characters in the books who cannot feel ‘God’s breath’, he is in charge of no-one and nothing.
All of these stories explore a yearning for vision of various kinds of. In the wonderfully acerbic ‘Ley Lines’, two hippies live in misery in a rusty caravan on a sodden field. Having lost faith her increasingly paranoid and violent boyfriend, Skinner, the gentle Gemma wonders hopelessly how she got there. The central story, ‘The Importance of Elsewhere,’ evokes both the experience of taking hallucinogenic mushrooms and the desperation that drives the central protagonist to seek a way out to somewhere ‘else’. In ‘Persistence’ the protagonist is Jack Cucu, a solitary farmer whom we’ve encountered in several of the other stories as a solid peripheral figure, now suddenly central and hollowed out by an aching, previously hidden, grief for his long-lost love. The figure at the heart of ‘Of Rocks and Stones’ is a vicar who sporadically writes letters that are never sent from the place he has never left to his estranged brother, significantly teaching geography in America. This story’s delicate, sensitive conclusion simultaneously explores his painful self-discovery and his inability to change.
The young man of ‘Ynys’ feels stranded and lost in London. His comment early on in this, the last of the stories illuminates the all of the others – each marked by homesickness for a space that doesn’t even exist:
I laughed and told her where I came from you were homesick even when you were at home.
This is an assured, intelligent collection, both deeply rooted in their acute sense of place and resonant of the wider cultural displacements and dissatisfactions of our materialist age.