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Pieces of Light by Adam Thorpe
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Pieces of Light

by Adam Thorpe

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An average read in 1999.

I found this an entertaining story in the first few chapters – Hugh’s early childhood in the Cameroon beginning with the gorilla incident – his transplantation to pre-war England at the age of seven to the home of his eccentric uncle who is obsessed with the wildwood and paganism – the leopard society which carries out human sacrifice – but between pages 139 – 417 where Hugh goes through the war, gets into acting, becomes a director and goes insane, I lost the sense of adventure and discovery.

It felt as if pages 139 – 417 were more about the writer developing the character of Hugh and exploring his interest in the old religions rather than unravelling the secrets of his tangled past. This section of the book could perhaps be described as a metaphysical mystery but it did nothing to move the story along.

At the end of the novel the letters written by Hugh’s mother to her brother explain the gorilla incident and Hugh’s origin.

Mr Thorpe is an excellent writer and he did get into the part but somehow I felt he didn’t really act out the story. Clearly I was looking for something other than what Mr Thorpe was offering but perhaps I would benefit from re-reading this novel at another time.

General Fiction Novel
Published in 1998
Jonathen Cape, Random House ( )
  cscovil | Nov 23, 2009 |
Not the masterpiece (and I mean MASTERPIECE) that was 'No telling', but nevertheless avery engaging and in parts horrifying read. There is almost too much going on here - we perhaps don't need the ghosty elements of it, but if one couples the spot on childhood memoir with the fantastic aging/senile passages, there is some ferociously brilliant writing. I strongly reccomend this book to anyone whio likes their books to have a good story wioth stylistic and structural surprises. ( )
  stephenmurphy | Feb 20, 2007 |
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The incident with the gorilla remained with my mother for the rest of her life, as certain tiny wounds do on the face.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0786706619, Hardcover)

Hugh Arkwright was born in colonial Africa, into a lush and beautiful place where it was possible at times to "feel the earth's heartbeat in your feet." Adam Thorpe's third novel, Pieces of Light, begins in the form of a memoir, with Hugh looking back to this hot paradise, to a state of grace in which "all around the forest spoke." Of course he was destined to fall, and to have the forest taken from him, replaced by cold silence, a mother who disappeared, an adolescence in England on the brink of war.

The author of this daunting, often dazzling novel has published two other fictions--Ulverton and Still--and two volumes of verse, and his poetic gifts are in full force in the Africa sections. But when Pieces of Light shifts from dreamlike memoir into journal fragments, letters, and various other "real" documents, it loses momentum. As Hugh grows up and confronts the West's postlapsarian reality (he becomes a well-known theater director and watches the world shatter into war), it can be difficult to stick with his ponderous journey. Epic in length, the novel begs to be cut back, to be allowed its true solitary intimacy like the charms carved in the African wilderness. Thorpe is clearly a writer of wild gifts, yet Pieces of Light often feels like the work of a composer who wanted to write a love song but whose ego compelled him to write a symphony instead. --Emily White

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:38 -0400)

Hugh Arkwright's remote childhood in the Central African bush, and its sudden disruption, leaves him with a legacy of magic, mystery, and tragic loss. Late in his life, he returns to the gaunt house in Ulverton where he was brought up by his eccentric uncle, and finds that the old ghosts still walk. The more he excavates his own past, the deeper he finds the traces of ancient horrors. The autumnal air of Ulverton begins to take on the taint of corruption, and a mystery starts that ends with vengeance, murder and a sudden, staggering revelation. The mild English manners of the village of darkness beneath the heart of oak. PIECES OF LIGHT is a modern novel steeped in a resonant past; where rural England and colonial Africa collide. Densely wrought and vividly imagined, Adam Thorpe's return to Ulverton is a fictional triumph - thrilling and unforgettable.… (more)

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