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Strandloper (Harvill Panther) Paperback – July 3, 1997


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Product Details

  • Series: Harvill Panther
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Random House UK (July 3, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860461611
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860461613
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,259,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A strange mix of realistic narrative and incantatory folk materials by Garner (author of a number of YA and children's fantasy novels) results in a work that is likely to leave most readers scratching their heads in bewilderment. Set in the late 18th century, it's the story of William Buckley (a real person, the dust jacket informs us), an English villager who, having performed in a reenactment of an ancient fertility ritual, is arrested, charged with ``lewdness and Popery,'' and transported to a prison camp in ``New Holland'' (Australia). After escaping, Buckley is taken in by a tribe of Aborigines (who call themselves ``the People'') and soon thereafter comes to be revered as their hero-god Murrangurk, whose appearance was long ago foretold in the prophetic creation ritual they call ``the Dreaming'' (at which skill the transformed Buckley proves almost preternaturally adept). Eventually spotted by white colonialists, Buckley/Murrangurk/Strandloper (this last term denoting a further incarnation) is employed as a translator and given a ``King's Pardon,'' then returns to his Cheshire home for the mixed blessing of a hesitant reunion with the woman he formerly loved, who may have borne his child. All of this is related in a crabbed, terse prose compounded of rustic British slang, Miltonic verse, folk songs and nursery rhymes, and the ornate language of both Church of England rituals and the Latin Mass. It's often very beautiful, especially when describing tenets of the Aborigines' faith (``In the Beginning, when the waters parted, and the Ancestors dreamed all that is, and woke the life that slept, the sky lay on the earth, and the sun could not move, until the Magpie lifted the earth with a stick''). Too often, though, this severely gnomic fiction scorns to render scene or incident clearly, leaving even the most willing reader unsure of what's happening on any given page. This may be a marvelous novel. It's hard to tell. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"A work of terrible beauty" -- Nicci Gerard Observer "A remarkable feat of literary imagination" -- Stephen Amidon Sunday Times "Strandloper's vision is cosmic and as elusive as a rainbow... The ending gathers the words into a powerful cry for wisdom that recognises the ineffable" -- Rosemary Sorensen Sydney Morning Herald

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Customer Reviews

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This may be a tough read for some, but stick with it!
John Anderson
Alan Garner's books for children were always favourites of mine (some kids do understand them!)
flying-monkey
As a result Garner's novel reads like the purest essence of distilled prose.
R. Griffiths

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R. Griffiths on May 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Strandloper is an almost unbearably beautiful book which repays every moment of the fourteen or so years the author took to write it.(You can read about that process in The Voice that Thunders) Every word is in exactly the right place, every phrase consummately crafted. As a result Garner's novel reads like the purest essence of distilled prose. It may be an acquired taste, but it it is truly worth the effort to acquire it. If you are familiar with Garner's previous work you will know that he is concerned with the impact of legend and myth on human life, and with the links that exist across time and culture. In Australia, to say you've got 'Buckley's chance' is to hold out almost no hope at all. Garner's depiction of William Buckley, convict, setting out across the Outback with only the paper sketch of a compass to guide him is one of the most poignant scenes I've ever read. How Buckley survives... well, read it for yourself.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By flying-monkey on April 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Alan Garner's books for children were always favourites of mine (some kids do understand them!) - dark, edgy and able to fully immerse you in the textures of the worlds he created. He never patronised, never apologised, just created and allowed the reader to enter.
Strandloper manages to do the same for 'adults'.
This is a phenomenal book. He pitches the reader into an Eighteenth Century world that is like nothing we know but seems to resonate subconsciously within us. Language, thought patterns, religion are at once strange but understandable at the margins of the modern mind. After a few pages the reader is inside, immersed, before this perspective is upended again, first with the desperate, fearful passage on board a convict ship, and then with the deep mythic and symbolic language and imaginings of the native Australians. The resolution is elegaic, sad and full of a sense of the destructive change to come with the onset of the modern world.
Garner's writing is utterly sparse, economic; there is no fat or wastage. Yet there could be no better evocation of not one but two cultures, which while they are superfically as different as could be, share a basis in that they both possess symbolic languages connected with the places and landscapes wherein they exist. These are both at odds with the soul-less, disconnected, modern world at which the ending points.
My vote for english novel of the 1990s if not the entire Twentieth Century, it was criminally ignored by almost every major reviewer.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is, quite simply, the most astounding book I have read. In many ways it is a logical extension of Alan Garner's previous writing, but even so, to see someone reach the heights that he has with this novel is a spellbinding experience.
From the Wierdstone onwards, Garner's books have increasingly shown confidence in the reader's ability to reshape a seemingly basic narrative into the full picture Garner seeks to convey, whilst consistently dealing with themes such as dislocation and the repetitive nature of history and folklore. I remember struggling as a child with Red Shift and The Owl Service, but each time managing to infer a little more from the rich but stark prose.
And now, after over thirty years of writing, he is able, with little more than dialogue, to take the reader through the four stages of one man's journey, from bricklayer in 18th Century Cheshire through to Aboriginal spiritual leader in ... 18th Century Cheshire.
The gaps are deliberate, they require perseverance to fill, but by doing so the reader has to see the world through Buckley's eyes. Maybe the Kirkus reviewer was busy that day, or maybe they just couldn't be bothered. I could be bothered, and I will never look at a book in the same way again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By deadmanjones on July 10, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Alan Garner, who for many years has been publishing "children's" literature that no child could possibly understand, has finally given the world a full, frank "adult" novel. It's contrasting narrative voices - which are handled with the skill of a latter day William Faulkner - are all the more impressive for the fact that the novel is written in the third person. At every twist of the tale, as the title character journeys from 18th century England to penal colony Australia and back again, the emotional and intellectual changes that take place within him are expertly mirrored in the narrative voice. This is already one of the greatest of modern novels, and were it not for the fact that it languishes under the critially frowned upon genre of "fantasy", then it would become a staple of every university's curriculum. Well, ignor the critics, and ignor the genre heading - this is Faulkner not Tolkien.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jason Fisher on December 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
I loved this book, like most of the other reviewers here. And I'll leave it to their reviews to try to convey the nature of the novel in a nutshell, so much as that is possible. It is remarkable, and difficult, and it doesn't do the reader any favors -- exposition? bah! -- but if you take the time to work at penetrating this seemingly impenetrable novel, the rewards are well worth that effort.

HOWEVER, the simple truth of the matter is this: Strandloper is not for everybody. If you are looking for straightforward fantasy, this isn't it. If you're looking for "another Alan Garner novel", this isn't it (of course, I'm oversimplifying here -- but I mean that this novel is very little like his others). One reviewer likened Strandloper more to Faulkner than to Tolkien, and that is spot-on (at least on the surface -- in reality, Garner's deep, almost baptismal immersion into mythology here is very much in keeping with Tolkien).

If you find getting through Faulkner a bit difficult, then Strandloper is going to make you want to check into an asylum -- or chuck the book into the fire. Reading it is not a passive act, the way reading most novels usually is; you have to take an active part in working to unravel its abstruse layers of narrative and meaning, and if that doesn't sound like much fun to you, then put down Strandloper and try something else -- perhaps O'Brian's Master and Commander.
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