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Boneland, by Alan Garner

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Manda Scott
Posts: 81
Joined: July 2010
Location: Shropshire, UK

Boneland, by Alan Garner

Post by Manda Scott » Mon September 10th, 2012, 1:52 pm

This is a first review, on first reading of a book I will read again and again for the rest of my life, and each time it will be different; deeper.

At one level, this is the sequel, fifty years on, to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath. For those of us who came to them young, these books shaped our lives; the tales of two children, who meet the Sleepers beneath the hill, who fly with the Wild Hunt, who battle the Morrigan (I was terrified of the small black pony with the red eyes, as a child) were the benchmark of a childhood's dream.

Alan Garner wrote those when he was twenty one, but he was not the same twenty one as the rest of us. If you've read his book of essays, 'The Voice that Thunders' (and if you haven't, I suggest you do), you'll know that this was a boy who lay abed with childhood illnesses and learned to send himself out 'into the ceiling' where he was safe. in the ceiling, time was malleable and his to shape; he could make a day into a minute, or a minute into twenty years. He went there to survive. And he did, but he 'died' three times: which for those of you who know anything at all about where we came from, is the making of a shaman.

So this boy lived, who had died three times, came from family of makers, who occupied their minds in different ways, his grandfather memorised the London Omnibus timetable, despite being in Cheshire; he sent for the news ones each quarter and memorised them, because he could. Young Alan read (and learned) the Children's Encylopaedia on much the same basis, having taught himself to read with the back page of the Knockout comic in a hospital bed. He learned the archaeology and folklore of the Edge in Cheshire where he lived. He learned history and genealogy and mythology and physiology and anatomy and how to make a stone hand axe. He went on to read Classics at Oxford, the first generation of his family to go to university. Soon after leaving, he wrote Wierdstone, and Moon of Gomrath, and captured a whole generation of children. Later, he wrote The Owl Service, Strandloper, Thursbitch, The Stone Song Quartet: some of the greatest writing in the English language.

All of which is background to a book that is 149 pages of sheer poetry. More than that, it is dreaming. Those of you who want to know about shamanic dreaming, who haven't learned it from the Boudica books and find the few unthreatening pages on my blog insufficient - this, this, is undiluted dreaming. (not dreaming. There's a difference and it lies in the power).

Colin is an adult, and has lost his sister. That part of the book is written in the present day. It touches on the Singularity, and who we might become on its other side. It touches on time and its linearity (or otherwise: remember, this is a man who knows how to expand and contract time, if not obviously how to step outside it - except that he must have learned that in order to write this). It touches on physics, and archaeology and ornithology and folk lore. As several reviewers have noted, it is a Grail Quest, but it gives its own answer, and in any case, it is so, so, so much more than that.

The other half of the book, the part that makes it historical if you need some history in your books, is set in the pre-hominid, pre-ice age half a million years ago in which the Dreamer must dance and sing the dream of a woman into being in order that they can make a child, to dance the beasts into being, to grow the World.

This part is sheer, unadulterated shamanic dreaming. But what's so very special is the way that it links to the present. I leave that for you to find out, but what I am waiting to discover, having read it only once, is whether the dance behind the dream is happening, and the world is changing in the way it treads.
Last edited by Manda Scott on Mon September 10th, 2012, 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Bestselling author of
Boudica: Dreaming. INTO THE FIRE out in June 2015: Forget what you thought you knew, this changes everything.


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