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Strandloper (Harvill Panther) Paperback – July 3, 1997
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From Kirkus Reviews
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Try reading this aloud to yourself ... the rhythms of language help capture it. A rich book, treading out from Cheshire in England to find ancient patterns of life in aboriginal... Read morePublished on November 21, 2013 by M. J. Goodman
I guess I expected a book more informational book because of a review I read. It was different! Maybe I missed something.....Published on August 12, 2013 by DarleneGisele
This is one of the most beautiful, the most strange and violent and wholesome and curious things I have ever seen. I haven't been the same since I read it. Read morePublished on January 27, 2012 by Mary Baine Campbell
What a strange and powerful thing it is to encounter the work of a complete master-craftsman. I support the others who have heaped praise upon this work. Read morePublished on August 5, 2009 by John Bonavia
This book is both haunting and beautiful... it hung around and is staying with me far longer than most books do when I've finished them. Read morePublished on June 20, 2007 by Lisa Applegate
This is as brave an attempt as Garner has made to effect voices from other eras. It's achieved with consistently brilliant time and place shifts, and one can't conclude other... Read morePublished on January 1, 2007 by R. J MOSS
A book you know merits better understanding, if only it could be understood. Garner's language is very choppy and difficult to follow, but the catch-22 of the situation is that it... Read morePublished on September 27, 2003
One reviewer has described Garner's writing as sparse but that's being too kind. Garner often leaves too much to our interpretation, going pages with dialogue only and barely... Read morePublished on January 10, 2003 by Logan Daugherty