Novelist and Reviewer:
Author: The Other Book, The Liberators. The Darkening Path Trilogy: The Broken King, vol. 1;
The King's Shadow, vol. 2, and The King's Revenge, vol. 3.
The Double Axe, a retelling of the Minotaur story, and The Arrow of Apollo. How To Teach Classics to Your Dog published October 2020. Wildlord, publishing October 2021.
Joe, a boy living on
his own in a dilapidated house, goes for an eye test. The letters don’t
behave as they should, and morph into Latin (from an old alchemical
text, incidentally, though Joe doesn’t know it). In Alan Garner’s
numinous new book, Treacle Walker (4th Estate), time and
reality shimmer with strangeness. The title refers to the name of a rag
and bone man with “green violet” eyes, who appears at Joe’s house one
morning, initiating mysterious incidents. He speaks philosophically:
“For at the very moment you have Now, it flees. It is gone. It is, on
the instant, Then.” He also spouts strange words: “hurlothrumbo” and
“lumperhomock” - characters in a play by an 18th century dancing master
called Samuel Johnson, which refer directly to the supernatural. We are
not in Kansas any more.
Garner’s body of work stands apart. His
children’s books are like poems, spare, tense and achingly vivid,
starred with poignancy, beauty and passion. Treacle Walker is set some
time in the 1950s, evoked with loving, choice detail, including a comic
called Knockout that becomes eerily significant. Despite this, the novel
seems ageless and fable-like.
Joe must be put to the test, and
when his eye gains magical powers, a dangerous force is set loose which
he has to thwart. The book hauntingly employs doppelgangers, mirrors and
cuckoos, whilst also creating a new kind of nature myth. Treacle Walker
shows us renewal, resurrection, and the cycles of the seasons; and it
does so with an artistry and attention rarely seen in children’s
literature. Those who know Garner’s work will sense another golden
thread, woven into the tapestry; those who don’t will be entranced, and,
with luck, led into a world of treasures.
A few weeks ago, I had a lovely chat via Zoom with Eve McDonnell (the author of Elsetime, a wonderful historical novel) about Wildlord. The interview is up here on Writing.ie. It was such a pleasure to talk to Eve.