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The Field of the Cloth of Gold

by Magnus Mills

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584451,317 (3.34)7
In a lush meadow, bounded by dense forest and a sparkling river, the flags of several tents flutter in the breeze, rich with the promise of halcyon days.Yet all is not as tranquil as it may seem: The balance of power wrought between the occupants of The Great Field, as it is properly known, is a delicate one, and relationships are stretched to breaking point when a new, large and disciplined group offers to share its surplus of milk pudding.Only the narrator acknowledges the gesture, but by forging links with the newcomers, he becomes a conduit for change, change that threatens The Great Field.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
I'm really not sure what to make of this. It narrated by an unnamed narrator, who has arrived at a field and set up camp. His discusses the other people on the field, and the comings and going of people to and around the field. How they survive, find water, food etc is never covered, this is more an allegory than a story based in the hard realities.
The various parties in the field come and go, move and interact with each other. The balance of power shifts around, with different parties seeming to be in the ascendant. The filed is several times identified as somewhere something special will happen, but this event doesn't seem to feature. Towards the end a final new commer predicts that the field will fall and the end of the book seems to imply that the prophecy is coming true.
I still don't know what this was really about; human nature, I suppose. It was well constructed, the first person narrator bringing an immediacy to the text. The descriptions were vivid and the filed certainly came to life. But it still leaves me scratching my head. Not sure I'm going to rush out and buy his back catalogue. ( )
  Helenliz | Jul 14, 2018 |
Well this is a strange book. An unnamed narrator arrives in a field in early spring , and puts up his tent. Where he comes from is never explained, but he has great expectations of his new home ....

The Great Field, as it was properly known, lay in the bend of a broad, meandering river. Irregular in shape, it was bounded in the east, south and west by water, and in the north it dwindled gradually into wilderness. As far as I knew it had never been cultivated: it was grassland pure and simple. To many eyes the field probably looked insignificant; after all there was nothing to distinguish it from the countless neighbouring fields. For a select few, however, it was the chosen field: the place where momentous events would unfold and come to fruition.


The narrator is not the first in the field: Hen has arrived before him and settled in the west. Gradually, over the course of a summer, more people arrive, firstly in ones and twos, and then in larger numbers. Some stay for good, others leave after a short time. There are arguments: about bugles, milk pudding, copper baths and ditches. There are quite a few conversations about tents ... and about biscuits.

It very soon becomes clear that the field is an allegorical representation of Britain, and the various happenings are allegorical representations of events in early British history. At least some quite clearly are, others I’m not so sure about and may be just weird events for all I know!

As I said, a strange book, but an enjoyable one (if you like this sort of thing). I’ll be looking out for more by Magnus Mills. ( )
  SandDune | May 4, 2018 |
The Field of the Cloth of Gold by Magnus Mills is a deceptively simple tale that tells of the founding of a settlement on what in the novel becomes known as “The Great Field.” Bounded on three sides by a river and by wilderness on the other, the field is a temptingly verdant patch that attracts the attention of various wanderers, who pitch their tents and burrow in for the long haul. When the unnamed narrator arrives (we are never told from where), the only other inhabitant is Hen, who has set himself up on the western margin. The narrator comes with high hopes. For some reason, never articulated, he views the field as “the place where momentous events would unfold and come to fruition.” He is a gregarious sort who values honesty and will go to lengths to see that others get along. The next to arrive is Thomas, he of the flowing white robe and imperious manner, who erects his elaborate tent in the south-east (the geography is described with precision throughout). Isabella comes next, with her crimson tent. The story, such as it is, is built around such comings and goings, interactions and the buzz of rumor among the inhabitants. An organized group arrives, led by Julian. They stay briefly, and when they leave Thomas goes with them. Thomas returns, and then the same group returns, but this time without Julian. All along, the narrator is kept busy speculating about what is driving the movement and upheaval. We see the action through his eyes, and though he participates in some activities, he is a loner and mostly an observer. When the population of the field begins to grow with many arrivals in a short time, it becomes difficult for him to keep up with peoples’ motivations and intentions. Along the way, there are conflicts, disagreements, bad behaviour, deception, and ebb and flow in the balance of power. To readers of Magnus Mills, it will come as no surprise that the action of the novel takes place in a bubble, with no reference to an outside world consisting of familiar landmarks. Inevitably, or so it seems, we are invited to see the Great Field as England, and the various arrivals as the tribes who descended on the island over the centuries, stayed or left, but somehow made their mark. In the end, with emotions running at a fever pitch, the narrator learns to indulge in some morally dubious fudging of the truth, and thereby ensure his survival. With innocence lost, can anarchy be far behind? ( )
  icolford | Feb 24, 2018 |
Another masterpiece from Magnus Mills. This time we are in an unspecified era in a large field in the bend of a river. The field is gradually settled by different people over the course of a lovely summer, the settlers all scatter themselves in different corners of the field. The narrator watches the comings and goings of the field and the river, as people arrive in boats, others set up magnificent gleaming white tents and others bathe in the river daily. It is a harmonious and bucolic scene. But this is Magnus Mills and things were bound to change and with new arrivals there are power struggles and schemes so that the field is no longer a pastoral haven but more akin to treachery in ancient Rome. Magnus Mills gives the impression that each of his words are chosen carefully and so reading one of his novels is a joy. He is playful and interesting and this is another triumph. ( )
  CarolKub | Dec 13, 2016 |
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After a week or so they sent round a message saying they had a surplus of milk pudding
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In a lush meadow, bounded by dense forest and a sparkling river, the flags of several tents flutter in the breeze, rich with the promise of halcyon days.Yet all is not as tranquil as it may seem: The balance of power wrought between the occupants of The Great Field, as it is properly known, is a delicate one, and relationships are stretched to breaking point when a new, large and disciplined group offers to share its surplus of milk pudding.Only the narrator acknowledges the gesture, but by forging links with the newcomers, he becomes a conduit for change, change that threatens The Great Field.

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