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On the Black Hill [Paperback] Paperback – Import, 1998
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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Bruce Chatwin's fascination with nomads and wanderlust represents itself in reverse in On the Black Hill, a tale of two brothers (identical twins) who never go anywhere. They stay in the farmhouse on the English-Welsh border where they were born, tilling the rough soil and sleeping in the same bed, touched only occasionally by the advance of the 20th century. Smacking of a Welsh Ethan Frome, Chatwin evokes the lonely tragedies of farm life, and above all the vibrant land of Wales. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Totally alive . . . a spellbinding portrayal of the unbreakable link between nature and the human spirit."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A masterpiece, a chronicle of ordinary lives told with extraordinary insight.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Scene after scene is brought to life with an enraptured attention that causes them to glow with an almost visionary light.” — The New York Times Book Review
“Remarkable…like a beautiful old quilt, made up of bright vivid patches, with scenes that surprise and delight and seem absolutely true.”— People
“A rare book, one of those splendid evocations of place made so justifiably famous by masters of the British novel in the past century: George Eliot, Hardy, Lawrence.”— Houston Post--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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But that is often for the young; the passions of a heart full of energy and longing, pockets empty of responsibilities, a life to be lived during those precious years of weightlessness. Youth is reckless and carefree and untroubled – and the enraptured young cannot imagine that sometime in their future the old, the familiar will renew its claim on them. Yet the calling does abide, of that which belongs to us and to which we belong – becoming stronger and stronger as the sand flows through the hourglass. Faith and politics and connection in a Hegelian journey from the center to the left and then back right again, down the rolling road of wonder which is rarely straight.
“If you aren’t a revolutionary when you are young, you have no heart. If you are not settled when you are old, you have no brain.” The siren’s call of revolution, to the young, is not that different than the warm beckoning of conservatism; especially when those who have wandered are finally able to see the exotic and the familiar together, good and bad alike as their eyes are opened to why things are the way that they are, and why that matters. And why, after the dust settles and the drama has moved on – we return home not in defeat or desperation but with our hearts filled, bringing what we now know to that which was always there.
“On the Black Hill” is about that sense of home. To belong so exclusively to a patch of land; to know every crevice and knoll, the dark earth enriched with tears and fertilized by sweat and blood. To know what loss is, to almost lose that land, your place – to have it change before you slowly as the unrelenting march of time and technology (not progress, at least not in the way the progressives think) wash over the same green valleys and darkened windows where children once played in the days before light.
This was an odd novel; it was beautiful and sad and pregnant with meaning and significance, especially because it was about people who were insignificant. For those who don’t understand the beckoning of the land and the dreams of our forefathers; how the valleys and hills can be like the air we breathe, nourishing our ideas of home – this book would be a good place to start. There is nothing wrong with loving the earth, valuing those traditions which have held it, and eschewing those who see change for change sake as something to be desired above all else. And there is nothing wrong with looking back, to our fathers and their fathers – to our forefathers – as we learn who we are and we become only the latest of the tribe who have fought and struggled and dreamed in order to build our world, not in the Wilsonian grandiloquent sense but instead in the way of the simple country preacher who knows his flock and seasons his sermons with essences of a land, over which time passes slowly.
“He never thought of abroad. He wanted to live with Lewis for ever and ever; to eat the same food; wear the same clothes; share a bed; and swing an axe in the same trajectory. There were four gates leading into The Vision; and, for him, they were the Four Gates of Paradise.”
Identical twins Lewis and Benjamin Jones have shared most of their days of their lives together since they were born. They live in a house together, sleep in their parent’s old bed together, work the farm together. Their lives are more interdependent than most married couples, each one completely dependent upon the other. The trials they’ve endured in their lives have changed each of them in different ways, they are no longer the mirror images of the other, inside and out.
“Because they knew each other’s thoughts, they even quarreled without speaking.”
Benjamin is the softer, gentler one, he cooks, and he loves delivering the baby lambs. Lewis is physically stronger, but a dreamer of other lands. Their mother factors heavily in their memories as they go through their days, through their lives. Their father factors in, not as heavily in their hearts, perhaps, but in the storytelling. Beginning with their father’s youth through their entire lives, this little book covers a rather extensive period of history.
Set in rural Wales, in a tiny little spot on the map, Chatwin is at his best when describing the landscapes and other cultures. The twins rarely leave their farm, and the town is much like you’d expect from any small town where the people rarely change, living is routine and never easy. These residents not only can’t imagine living anywhere else, they are comfortable in their routines. Knowing the quirks and annoying behaviors of each resident they feel protected by that knowledge.
“Most Radnorshire farmers knew chapter and verse of the Bible, preferring the Old Testament to the New, because in the Old Testament there were many more stories about sheep-farming.”
While reading this, I sometimes felt torn between the occasionally lovely prose, the quirky charm of the characters, and the overall bleakness of the setting as it often crossed that line into bleak and depressing. I recommend this book with that caution.
Pub Date: 18 Oct 2016
Many thanks to Open Road Integrated Media, and to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy.
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This is not an obscure fact and important in the understanding of his character...Read more