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Boneland by Alan Garner
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Boneland (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Alan Garner

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1661171,708 (3.6)37
Member:imbolcfire
Title:Boneland
Authors:Alan Garner
Info:Fourth Estate (2012), Hardcover, 149 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:literature, neo-romanticism, weird fiction

Work details

Boneland by Alan Garner (2012)

  1. 10
    Red Shift by Alan Garner (gennyt)
    gennyt: Boneland has more in common with Red Shift stylistically than with his earliest novels, although it's been advertised as the long delayed third part of a trilogy begun with Weirdstone and Moon of Gomrath.
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» See also 37 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
As a child I read, and loved, Garner's Weirdstone of Brisingamen and its sequel The Moon of Gomrath. Many thought there should have been a third book, completing the stories, but Garner resisted and moved on to books aimed at older children and adults. I reread Stone and Moon a couple of years ago and they were as good as I remembered. Wonderful fantasies set in and around Alderley Edge in Cheshire.

So when I discovered that Garner had finally written a third book in the series I didn't know what to expect. A children's book in the same vein? Or something else?

What we get is a concise novel about loss and grief, about blame and self-doubt, about mystery and myth. This is not a children's book, but rather a book for the adults who remember the first two books. It is by turns oblique, poetic, strange and cathartic.

Colin Whisterfield, the boy protagonist of the first two books is all grown up, a professor no less, who works at a radio telescope. He is brilliant and troubled with mounting psychological problems caused by a childhood trauma that means he can remember nothing before the age of 13. Living alone in a hut in a quarry by the Edge, Colin is eventually forced to seek the help of psychologist Meg, who, with several doses of tough love, makes him confront his greatest fears and his deep sense of loss.

The tone of this book is very different. Mixing poetic, mythic passages of prose that read like a description of a dream, with vivid descriptions of the broken Colin, Garner creates a story that fills in some of the blanks and ties up some of the loose ends left at the end of The Moon of Gomrath.

The twist at the end is well handled, the finale both moving and satisfying. Alan Garner is one of our greatest, and probably most underrated, writers and this is a fine example of his work and a fitting end to the Weirdstone trilogy. Bravo sir, bravo. ( )
1 vote David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
This is definitely a book for adults despite it being a follow on from the 'Weirdstone' books. Or is it? Myth and physics are mixed together in a sometimes confused mixture as is the time you are reading about as we travel between now and the distant past. ( )
  JohnFair | May 15, 2016 |
Growing up is weird, and can seem quite sad, especially when you remember the things that used to ring and resonate and you can almost remember what the ring and the resonance sounded like but not why it set your nerves on fire and filled your head with light. I suppose they were simple things in their way. Magic. Adventure. Heroes. Villains. Whether it's age or the world, such things don't quite hold the thrill they used to, or the thrill seems cheapened by camp and over-saturation and the acute knowledge of how dreary reality can be.

But maybe it's not supposed to be quite like that. We assume as we grow that we put magic aside and sigh and set our shoulders and stride in the grey light of adulthood, and that fantasy and adventure and romance are now cheap escape routes from the grey. But there is more than one sort of knowledge, isn't there? As we grow, we acquire the tools we need to live. Language. Skills. Strength. Learning. perhaps within those tools are deeper, more profound consolations and magics.

Alan Garner wrote two children's novels: The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen and The Moon Of Gomrath. They were wildly popular, and I know I wore my copies out with rereading. They were an odd mix; old-fashioned, inventive but somewhat conventional children's stories imbued with deeper, darker roots into folklore and landscape. The adventure narrative dominated, though, and they were quite thrilling and exciting reads, for all the slight tingle of unease they left when completed. The conventional narrative was to shrink and the unease to grow through Garner's subsequent novels: Elidor and The Owl Service, until with Red Shift he broke with linear narrative completely and jumbled time and place and memory and history and myth and wove them into an extraordinary, disorienting form.

Garner does not seem to have retained much fondness for Weirdstone or Gomrath, and has a tendency to disparage them. It was a surprise, therefore, to discover that they were the first two volumes of a trilogy, and he was finally, decades later, going to complete it.

Boneland is not an adventure narrative of heroes and magic. Boneland is, if anything, almost an apology for those first two books, addressed to the landscape they exploited, the myths, the people the community and the history they, perhaps, cheapened. It is an author coming to terms with his own beginnings, both as a person as an author. And it is an offering to the reader, hopefully the reader who grew up with those two books, of a reading experience that is at once harsher, more difficult, less fantastical, much more uneasy and ambiguous, and yet also deeper, richer, broader, invoking the lost memories of deep time and the unfathomable vastness of the entire universe, while reaffirming the debt, the ties and the need for a deep rooting in a a home place.

In Boneland, Colin cannot leave Alderley Edge, cannot spend a night out of its sight or else it will vanish and the world will end. The wisdom of this book is that this is both something true and a metaphor for something else, and though we use different tools to examine the truth and the metaphor, they do not have to be divided. And so Garner offers his readers, who thrilled as children to magic and adventure, a conception of the adult world that encompasses its dreariness and a form of magic and adventure that cannot be cheapened or made camp. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
I waited for something to happen. I waited for something to be explained. I waited for a story. None of these things were there. It was weird without being interesting, and wordy without having anything to say. ( )
  sloopjonb | Jun 27, 2015 |
As a writer of children's fiction, Alan Garner has entertained a generation with his magical and original fantasy stories. That's not surprising, because he is an astonishingly good writer. Boneland is typical Garner, his writing is sparse, spare and playful, and there are few concessions to the reader who isn't paying attention. Garner expects you to keep up, and to take things on trust.

Garner's confidence and his style absolutely shine in this book. At times his writing is lyrical, transcendently poetic, breathtakingly good. On the other hand this sparseness, the bare-bones minimalism of his storytelling can leave you confused, and at times bemused. What is the relationships between the troubled modern-day astronomer, Colin Whistlefield, struggling to come to terms with his past and his dreams; and the Neolithic Watcher, mythic delver after ancient mystery, and preserver of, perhaps, all that we know and feel?

In the end I could not reconcile those two stories. To do so I would need to re-read this book, pay more attention, and deconstruct the narrative, tasks I have little time or enthusiasm for.

An intriguing, fascinating book, flawed in its brilliance, like its main character. Or perhaps that flaw really lies with this reader. ( )
  DKGullen | Jul 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
You figure out what it's all about gradually; as with poetry, learning another language, learning to see and think differently, the demands and rewards are intense and real. It is this element of the book, in which the obsessions come into focus and a true balance is glimpsed, that will bring me back to Boneland, knowing I'll find there what no other novelist has ever given us.
 
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For the worth of two Marks and a Bob
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'Listen. I'll tell you. I've got to tell you,'
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Book description
If the sleeper wakes, the dream dies…

Professor Colin Whisterfield spends his days at Jodrell Bank, using the radio telescope to look for his lost sister in the Pleiades. At the same time, and in another time, the Watcher cuts the rock and dances, to keep the sky above the earth and the stars flying.

Colin can’t remember; and he remembers too much. Before the age of twelve years and nine months is a blank. After that he recalls everything: where he was, what he was doing, in every minute of every hour of every day.

But Colin will have to remember what happened when he was twelve, if he wants to find his sister. And the Watcher will have to find the Woman. Otherwise the skies will fall, and there will be only winter, wanderers and moon…
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A woman was reading a book to a child on her knee. So the little boy went into the wood, and he met a witch. Professor Colin Whisterfield spends his days at Jodrell Bank, using the radio telescope to look for his lost sister in the Pleiades. At night, he is on Alderley Edge, watching. The Watcher cuts the rock and blows bulls on the stone with his blood, and dances, to keep the sky above the earth and the stars flying. Colin cannot remember; and he remembers too much. Before the age of thirteen is a blank. After that he recalls everything: where he was, what he was doing, in every minute of every hour of every day. Everything he has read and seen. And then, finally, a new force enters his life, a therapist who might be able to unlock what happened to him when he was twelve, what happened to his sister. But Colin will have to remember quickly, to find his sister. And the Watcher will have to find the Woman. Otherwise the skies will fall, and there will be only winter, wanderers and moon.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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