You may see the title of this post and your mind might jump right back to being a teenager and reading books by Alan Garner; his books are a curious mixture of myth and legend woven into the present, continual cycles of past events repeating themselves in the present and no doubt will do again in the future. Garner is fascinated by folklore, and is not only an expert but a master at retelling old legends and giving them a contemporary slant.
Garner is an extraordinary man; from a humble rural background he went up to Oxford, although he left without taking his degree. While still a very young man, he saw and fell in love with an old medieval building in Alderley Edge, near to where he grew up. He borrowed money to buy it and has lived there ever since. It was there that he wrote The Weirdstone of Brisingamen which was published in 1960. I first heard this story as a play on the radio, and it was really creepy and almost frightening… but it made me borrow the book from the library, and then to read the rest of Garner’s novels as they were published.
Weirdstone was followed by the Moon of Gomrath, which continued the adventures of the children from the first novel. Nearly fifty years after Gomrath, the third and concluding part of the story was published, Boneland. I haven’t read it yet, and I feel as if I want to reread Brisingamen and Gomrath first. Elidor, is set in Manchester at about the time when I first went there as a student, so the scenes are very familiar to me; I think this is part of what appeals to me about garner, that there is a connection and a relevance and a familiarity.
In the same way, I felt moved by Red Shift, which dealt with some quite difficult subjects… and it is one of those books that over the years has often come back to me… I wonder what I would think of it now if I read it again. I recently read The Owl Service with my book club, and I have to admit, some of it did seem a little dated, but that did not stop me enjoying it, nor diminish the power and effect of his writing.
I have never been very keen on Harry Potter, I think Garner is a superior writer, but I know that not everyone agrees with me. If you haven’t read any of his work and come to it as a new reader, I wonder what you will think. Will you be won over, or will you find it old-fashioned?!
I read some of his books for the first time recently because they were mentioned in one of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London novels, which I love. I admit I found them dated but I enjoyed the mythology behind them.
Rivers of London are absolutely brilliant, so funny! I’ve only read the word novels, not the graphic novels, perhaps I should try them.