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Ulverton Hardcover – December, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This first novel was warmly received in England, and it is easy to see why. It possesses many of the virtues of the traditional English novel--pride of place, respect for a winsome underclass and an overriding fascination with the language and wiles of the ruling elite--and at the same time radically subverts those virtues. Thorpe's ambitions are broad, and paradoxically so, since he has subjected himself to the narrow constraints of period style. No single family or dominant theme threads through the novel's 12 chapters; they are unified only in their recounting of events--or more accurately, their extended snatches of language--grounded in rural Ulverton, a fictional town in Thomas Hardy's Wessex. The opening scene depicts one of Cromwell's soldiers staggering home; the closer is a shooting script for a film about the failed purchase of land in Ulverton in 1988. In between we are treated to letters from a barely literate mother to her imprisoned son (said to date from 1775), a story, told in an alehouse, about a road accident (1803), an arch Victorian discussion of a collection of photographs, and more. Thorpe's attempt to portray a changing England solely through changing literary conventions is more than admirable. However, it is sometimes less than readable (" 'tis the seed of wild clymatis, that is named bedwine here, it must grow & tangle these words ere long, or I puff it out again"). A post-modern novel if there ever was one, Ulverton is nevertheless a better idea than it is a book.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In its long history, the town of Ulverton in Wessex Downs has withstood the impact of major world-wide events as well as events of local importance from the local murder of a returned soldier in 1650 through the discovery and photography of an Egyptian tomb in 1859 to the desecrations of a developer in 1988. First-time novelist Thorpe immerses the reader in the language, social mores, and attitudes of each succeeding chapter in the town's history. A challenging, exciting, mind-expanding novel of historical fiction, Ulver ton provides readers with subtle intergenerational connections. It's one of those novels of lasting value that will be read and re-read for sheer pleasure.
- Marcia Dorey, Northwest Missouri State Univ. Lib., Maryville
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T) (December 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374280312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374280314
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. Mckenzie on May 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
and refuse to share my old, tattered, paperback copy with anyone - it's just too hard to replace. I do not understand why this book isn't better known, and more revered. It's far superior to the likes of Edward Rutherfurd's Sarum, or Ken Follet's Pillars of Heaven, though the thematic structure is similar - a detailed history of a single place, as told through the experiences of a diverse cast of characters. As you read Ulverton, you get the sensation of actually hearing the voices and sharing the experiences of real people - by turns hilarious, heartbreaking, breathtaking, and just head-shakingly real.

I think it's time for me to re-read this book - for probably the fourth or fifth time. It's that good.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on December 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
First off, this is not the first Amazon review of this work. There are two reviews of it under what Amazon is pleased to call "The Spanish Edition" but which are obviously NOT reviews of the Spanish edition. ---How anyone could make a translation of this book into any language is beyond me. It's already a translation to read the old Berkshire and Cornish dialects of some of the chapters and try to make any sense of them at all. But we'll let that be.

So, what we have here is a series of accounts regarding happenings of the fictional town of Ulverton in the south of England from the end of the English Civil War until 1988, under different guises by men and women of varying levels of education and social position. Be forewarned that, like the law clerk taking depositions in the chapter entitled, ahem, Deposition, you will be in need of some sort of translator to get the full import of what is being said, particularly in the chapter entitled Stitches, which is well-nigh past understanding in parts. But you need not go to such efforts as the author did, such as digging out "A Glossary of Berkshire Words & Phrases" (London, 1880) to suss it all out. The general import comes through and what doesn't is made manifest in later, more articulate chapters.

The value of this book, what it conveyed most fully to me, lies in the history of different mind-sets, of ways of seeing the world, of valuations placed on earth, man and machine varying with the circumstances of the storyteller in each chapter and the times and milieu in which he or she lives. The prose is as rich and loamy as the earth of Ulverton, so often described here in so many ways.

The book makes a claim, a justified one, at being a work of art. But this can cut two ways.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
[...] Thorpe's recreation of life in a small English village over three hundred years is startling in its ability to grab the reader by the "emotional lapels" and shake hard. By revealing bits of history from widely varying perspectives, Thorpe communicates that, though times and social classes may differ, the essence of "being human" does not. The ending is also uncommonly satisfying. Treat yourself--read Ulverton!
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