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Corbel Bread and Piddlejuice
on 21 August 2013
Thursbitch is set, like so many of Alan Garner's novels, in Cheshire, and more specifically around Alderley; it's a region from which the Garner family has roots traceable back to the sixteenth century at least. His grandfather passed on local folk tales orally, and the rich dialect of the area must have sunk in deep along with the stories.
Garner's story here is far from a fire-side tale. We're witnesses to the juxtaposition of two parallel experiences in time, separated by centuries. The reader is immediately immersed in the hard, unforgiving yet at times humorous world of the mid-eighteenth century peasant. Few concessions are made, and the dialogue is rich, the references enigmatic. Side by side, we are accompanying two contemporary hikers as they make a final journey in a landscape they both love. Again, in the 'modern' thread, we're eavesdroppers, having to pick up leads where we can; all of this makes Thursbitch both demanding but also - once we're in the zone - riveting.
The theme of love and loss dominate both skeins, the currents colliding when emotion heightens to such an extent that it seems to break through the invisible and unknowable barriers of time itself.
Full of folk and classical themes, Thursbitch is work will reward those who seek something deeper than surface detail, and sense a resonance of sanctity in certain enduring landscapes.