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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 11 April 2005
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 ancient English countryside, and enjoy some real magic - read this book. The language is occassionally obscure but well worth the effort.
As a child I loved the Wierdstone of Brisinghamen and the Moon of Gomrath - and now that I am "grown-up", I was delighted to find an Alan Garner book for adults.
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on 17 December 2003
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.
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on 9 January 2004
Alan Garner has consistently written captivating and elegaic novels. From The Weirdstone of Brisingamen right up to date with Thursbitch. Don't let the mildly off putting title distract you. This is a superb novel reverberating between the past and the present. Its material is quite dark but Garner puts it all in a context which ends on a sad but triumphant note. Even though it a quite short it is so crammed with meaning that you feel as though you have just read a block buster. And indeed you have, if you like thought provoking, orignal and moving stories Thursbitch is exceptional - buy it now.
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on 26 July 2011
Like other reviewers I read earlier books by Alan Graner when I was much younger, and still re read them regularly.
Thursbitch tugged at my heart strings. I know I will be reading this again and again - trying to uncover the mysteries. This is not a quick read despite it being a slim book. It is a book which needs slow reading and careful thought. On a personal level, my dad came from Cheshire (b 1922) and I can hear his voice in the narrative. There are many expressions used in the book which he used frequently - 'sithee', 'old youth', 'I'll go to the foot of out stairs'. A very great pleasure for me.
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on 3 March 2013
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 certainly true of Thursbitch.

Thursbitch is a short book that could possibly be classed as a novella. It consists of two intertwined stories from two very different time periods with a thin supernatural thread linking them. Unfortunately this description makes Thursbitch sound much more interesting that it actually is. At times I found it hard to understand what was happening in each story as Garner employs not only a sparse style of writing but also heavy use archaic speech. It makes for difficult reading and detracts from the story rather than adding to the atmosphere.

The ending left me feeling as if I had missed something important, as there had to be more to each story than that. Perhaps if I was to read it again I might find some spark of genius but I simply didn't find enough connection to the characters or their stories to face the trial or reading Thursbitch again.
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on 27 June 2014
Teenage classic but i can't say that I enjoyed. It needs deep thought and certain parts needed to be re-read,
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on 27 March 2017
How this man can write. What command of place-specific vernacular, and the umbilical connection to local idiom and the place within which this language is saturated. It is an affirmation, too, of the currents of grounded pagan knowledge that survive the blithe makings-over of our specifically local realm. I couldn't understand some of the dialogue, but the very beauty of it made that irrelevant. No-one writes like Garner, and no-one should try to. His is a unique talent and a unique voice.
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on 29 January 2018
Garner’s novel is a curious affair, and all the better for it. Compact, and spare in its prose, it manages to pack much into the generously-spaced text of its 158 pages. Interweaving two periods and two sets of characters united by a single space – the eponymous Pennine valley of the title – he creates a tale in which the landscape becomes a place of enchantment, possessed of an atmosphere dense enough to hold the imprint of memories of lives and events long since passed.

It opens with a packman and his train of horses amidst a snowstorm on an open hillside track in 1755, and it was thanks to a short and enigmatic inscription in memory of this John Turner, that Garner’s imagination set to work in crafting this piece of prose. Turner died in that storm, and but for that bare fact and mention of the print of a woman’s shoe in the snow by his side, nothing more concrete is known. Garner’s creative imagining provides the reader with a plausible character and tale behind the name, embedded within a local community linked by his wanderings to the outside world, but resolutely insular, and minded to observe its own customs and ways. Pagan echoes resound about the valley of Thursbitch, its eighteenth-century inhabitants thinking nothing of their mushroom-induced hallucinogenic rites, which with its sacrificial climax brings to mind the imagery of Mithras slaying the bull. They speak in dialect, faithfully rendered and richly textured, that some readers may not find to their taste. To my mind, however, it lends the tale an authenticity that it would otherwise lack.

The lives of these characters somehow intersect with those of an academic with a penchant for geology, and her friend, a Catholic priest, who live on the cusp of the twenty-first century. They too are enamoured with Thursbitch, but they are transitory visitors, rather than residents, who tread its paths for leisure rather than trade. A vessel fashioned from Blue John, that tumbles from above and through time, brings their worlds into contact, and fleeting glimpses suggest that the span of the years has been bridged on more than one occasion.

It is a tale of love and death, and the nature of time, place, and enchantment. The lives of both ‘couples’ is ultimately marred by loss, but Thursbitch, and their attachment to it, remains, seemingly, outside of time itself. An enchanting read.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 December 2012
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.
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on 28 March 2013
Nearly 50 years after William Golding wrote The Inheritors Alan Garner wrote Thursbitch. Both are trying to catch the lives and values of bygone generations, recreating their lost language (even if this creates difficulties for the readers) and showing how those previous generations were far more sophisticated than we often think. Thursbitch tells two stories which are set in the same place, the real valley of Thursbitch near Macclesfield, but set over two hundred years apart. But one man in the first generation and one woman in the later one somehow sense each other through the strength of the valley which is itself something of an enchanted, living, commanding presence. I would not recommend this book for everyone but some people will love it. Alan Garner has probably been under-rated as a novelist because his starting point has been children's books. However, he never regarded himself as a children's writer - although all his works, including this one, have elements of magic, creativity and poetry that we associate more with books for the young.
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