- Paperback: 172 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Books; UK ed. edition (Oct. 6 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099459361
- ISBN-13: 978-0099459361
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.2 x 19.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 118 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #664,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Thursbitch Paperback – Oct 6 2004
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"Eerie and immaculately written" -- Olivia Laing * Observer * "A rare flight of the imagination - and an unforgettable book" * Metro * "The land does indeed seem alive thanks to Garner's acute sense of place and his delight in language...This novel crackles with linguistic life" * Sunday Times * "Garner's book is only a slim volume, yet in the ideas and possibilities it suggests, it punches well above its weight" * Sunday Herald * "The experience of reading Thursbitch is so overwhelming that, after closing the book, it remains more real than anything around one... His art reaches out from the society of ancestors... with trepidation undoubtedly but also with a transforming, youthful hope" * Independent *
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In this visionary fable, John Turner's death in the 18th century leaves an emotional charge for Ian and Sal in the 20th, which deeply affects their relationship, challenging the perceptions they have of themselves and each other.See all Product description
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For when you come down to it, almost all his books rely deeply on faults in time and/or space: we have the walking stones, the mystical communion across oceans (Strandloper), the phantasmal reappearance of figures across time...But in what line of descent could we put him? The strong sensitivity to place, most clearly expressed in "Thursbitch" with Sally's term "sentient landscape" might link him to Algernon Blackwood: but Blackwood's indulgent, discursive style is almost the opposite of Garner's. M.R.James comes closer, but James is more explicitly devoted to raising the hackles on your spine, while Garner lets it sneak up on you unexpectedly as you realize what just happened.
Anyway, be that as it may - what about Thursbitch? What is it "about?"
It's a story of interlinked lives. One is that of Jack, the "jagger". the roving man in 1736 who is more than a salt-carrier: in the ancient rural society of north-west England he is what can only be described as a shaman, a figure of power. It is a world still full of pagan belief, where the Bull, the stars, bees, and honey are all linked... echoes of "out of the strong came forth sweetness," and of the shaman becoming the totem animal: there are the hallucinatory fungi (known to the people as "corbel bread"). There are sacred places, there are the standing stones that mark the way along the ridge tops but do much more...Jack sees the indentations in the ground where they left their places to drink at the stream, his horses shy at one when it looms up out of the driving snow.
The other lives are of the present day: Sally, a woman who knows all there is to know about geology and the history of the land over millennia, but who is the victim of a rapidly crippling disease: and her companion, the saintly Ian, who seems to be both priest and doctor - he went to a seminary but took the "hippocritic" oath. As they walk the Cheshire hillsides - in Sally's case with much difficulty - they come increasingly under the spell of the historic landscape, and the veil of time parts so that they see Jagger and his packtrain and are under the slope when they hear his awful cry as his wife Nan Sarah dies in childbirth. Likewise, Jack sees two people up on the ridge...and later passes Ian when Ian is walking away from a tragic moment.
Jack goes astray and becomes a ranting preacher of doom - one can't help comparing his sermon on the terrors of Hell with James Joyce's, both real tours de force - but is rescued back to "himself" by the sting of a bee. The bee is a sacramental creature that is featured many times, singly, or in a swarm, or as a star cluster.
So much depth - and I haven't mentioned the sacred spring, or the snakes, or the tradition of drinking the shaman's "piddlejuice" that has traces of the hallucinogenics in it, or the farmpeople's songs with Greek choruses... Yes, you will have to read it. Oh, by the way, there are dozens of words you won't know, unless you are a really deep student of English folklore and country ways....some can be found readily, others you guess from context. Please don't let that hold you back. They add so much to the richness and immediacy of the setting.
A totally amazing work.
I've lent this book out continually since I bought it and suggested it to others. It's profound and gorgeous.
Alan Garner's writing is minimalist yet packed with meaning. The book is a breezy 160 pages long, heavy on dialogue, with nary a wasted word. Simplistic on the surface, the book exudes a significance that almost demands a second reading in order to fully absorb everything the author has put into it. "Thursbitch" almost read as a religious parable, putting forth a surface meaning that hints at but never fully reveals that deeper levels underneath.
Not the easiest of reads if you struggle with foreign dialects, but without a doubt, "Thursbitch" is worth the effort.
But it's worth it. The sweep and scope, the prose and language are all done by a master wordsmith.
It's hard for me to say exactly what this book is about, except that there's two stories here, intertwining but rarely in contact.