Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The last book I read......

...as promised.

Strandloper by Alan Garner.

Alan Garner is probably more famous for the children's books he wrote in the 1960's, most famously The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, a book that still stands up to re-reading over 20 years after I read it first, but also the more powerfully bonkers later stuff like the Owl Service and Red Shift, which I'm not sure I fully understand even now, except that it's about sex and violence in a way I would probably have found profoundly disturbing as a teenager if I'd had the first idea what was going on.

This one is most definitely for adults though - a book more viciously pared down to its bare essentials it would be hard to imagine. Somewhere in Alan Garner's attic there is a 600-page first draft of this that got whittled down to the spare 200 pages here. Consequently it makes stiff demands on the reader; not everything is explained, the ritual and dialect (both Cheshire and Aboriginal) is opaque at times (and sometimes the dialogue is all there is), and characters come and go without introduction or explanation.

Very very briefly (and, to quote a film - I forget which - only on the most pathetically obvious level of reality) it's the story (based on a true story apparently) of William Buckley, who got transported from Cheshire to Australia for some ill-defined crime in the early 19th century, escaped captivity and lived as an Aborigine for over 30 years before returning to Britain.

It's powerfully rich and emotional stuff, especially the brief last section. Read it, and then give The Weirdstone of Brisingamen to your kids instead of a Harry Potter book. They'll thank you for it.

1 comment:

Nicola said...

No-one has written a comment yet, that's sad. Donc, comment va ton chat? Et comment vont tes draps?