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The Many Paperback – June 15, 2016
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The Many unfolds like an unsettling dream, shifting illogically, asking the reader to accept leaps from reality to what seems like it may be fantasy (or may be a matter of perception). But it's not just a strange fable, there is humanity in it too: Ethan's palpable grief for Perran; the locals' struggle to adapt to a world in which their former livelihoods have become obsolete; the touches of tenderness in Timothy and Lauren's scenes together. Its portrayal of a community left behind by technology and bureaucracy, suspicious of the threat represented by 'outsiders', is recognisable and timely - perhaps even more so now than the author may have intended. Learn This Phrase Though it was perhaps not written with this in mind, reading the novel during the nightmarish toxicity of the EU Referendum gives it an interesting prescience in its exploration of a failing, unwelcoming community's reaction to an outsider, the decaying environment that surrounds them both and the looming warnings of a distant bureaucracy. That fishing quotas, ecology and environmental regulations are also part of the ongoing debate feeds into that sense of a discussion in microcosm. The sense of loss that permeates here is not just related to the personal, but to the social and communal as well. Film and Other Assorted Buffery The sparse prose is dark and intense, strikingly written with a haunting quality that sends shivers through the soul. neverimitate This book is powerfully written and haunting. Always teetering on the edge of the gothic, Menmuir describes a coastal community that is dreamlike, slightly out of focus, with its own rules that Timothy never grasps. At the same time, it is rooted in the real world: remote bureaucracy, plummeting fish stocks and maritime pollution have blighted the lives of the fishermen. Blue Book Balloon Menmuir's homespun horror has flashes of Daphne du Maurier's ghost-gothic and John Wyndham's dystopia while displaying its own individuality and flair ... Menmuir steers a steady course; the result is profound and discomfiting, and deserving of multiple readings. -- Catherine Taylor The Guardian At about the two-thirds point, I started to realize that I was not reading a conventional, if slightly off-kilter and moody, story about a man having a hard time getting his life back together in a semi-hostile village. No, The Many is a horrific, beautifully horrific, tale that I cannot shake, as much as I may like to. The Mookse and the Gripes It creates an effective sense of tension and psychological suspense along the lines of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw but passages where the men are out fishing in the gloom also invoke a feelings of intense meditation and a primal self-sufficiency similar to Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. I was slowly drawn into the novel's bizarre climate of secrecy and impending doom. The Many is a brisk, impactful novel which poignantly portrays grief, solitude and an inhibited state of consciousness. Lonesome Reader an intriguing first novel -- Fiona Wilson The Times This is a novel that has to be read at one go but one of those rare stories that once you have reached the end you start reading it all over again. There are moments one has to pause and wonder if it is reminiscent of similar writing in the past and then realise it would be unfair to compare The Many to any other writing. Wyl Menmuir's style is wholly original, it grips one with its exquisitely chiselled style to create a stunningly beautiful and memorable novel much like the Cornish coast is. -- Jaya Bhattacharji Rose Confessions of an avid bibliophile I found myself totally gripped. The kind of book where you end it still wanting answers and yet are unsure of the questions. It's a wonderful book and the first book I've finished this year that I immediately wanted to read again. Information Overlord A parable on ecological destruction, a commentary on monotony and parochialness, an obscure examination of sorrow, an investigation into the mysterious workings of the psyche - The Many is weird and disorienting, yes, but original and wonderful too. On Art and Aesthetics Paperback of the Week It would be wrong to give away the precise reasons for his protagonist's state, but as Menmuir's allegory becomes decipherable, it is increasingly affecting, and the moment when we understand how the bay and its darkly looming ships might be the warped echo of an earlier, shattering scene is one of great power. -- Stephanie Cross The Observer He deserves 10 out of 10 when it comes to the creation of atmosphere, and Menmuir can certainly write... A writer to watch. The Independent If it is possible to describe a book as being rich on spare detail then The Many is it, like a stock reduced to its very essence, and I suspect it was this lack of extraneous waffle and digression in the company of Wyl Menmuir's beguiling writing style that grabbed my attention and kept me wedded to this novel in the days immediately after Port Eliot festival. Dovegreyreader An intriguing, evocative and formally ambitious debut. -- Luke Brown Financial Times
About the Author
Wyl Menmuir was born in 1979 in Stockport. He lives on the north coast of Cornwall with his wife and two children and works as a freelance editor and literacy consultant. The Many is his first novel.
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But as the story progresses—slowly at first, very slowly—other elements come in. Timothy's cottage is known locally as Perran's, even though this Perran has been dead ten years. Try as he might, Timothy can find little about him. Was he old or young, a village leader or a preternaturally wise child? What was his special relationship with Ethan, a local fisherman who acts almost as though he has lost a son or lover, and blames himself for Perran's death. Is there hatred, envy, or grudging kinship in Ethan's relationship with Timothy, on those occasions when he takes him out his boat? Who is the woman in gray, who appears with her henchmen whenever a catch is brought in?
I tend not to like the use of dreams in novels, and there are a lot of them here. There are also long flashback sections in italics. At least they seem like flashbacks, but as you read on you discover that the relationship of the various time-periods is not always what you assumed—and further that the distinction between dream and straight narrative is not so clear either. Eventually, Menmuir will bring in some episodes that seem to have a different kind of reality, leading perhaps to other theories of what the book was about. I don't imagine that any two readers will entirely agree, but at the end I personally found it very moving indeed.
But I still cannot explain the title.
It was okay, but I didn’t love it. It’s about a man named Timothy who moves to a mysterious seaside village whose inhabitants are still recovering from a recent tragedy. The thing is, no one will discuss the tragedy. And strange things keep happening, seemingly brought on by Timothy’s arrival. What is this place? And why is he there?
I often enjoy abstract and enigmatic books — Jesse Ball’s A Cure for Suicide, which made the National Book Award longlist last year, comes to mind — but The Many fell short for me. I was content with the resolution and fully on board with the themes (grief, sorrow, loss) but I had to push myself to get there.
Definitely not a bad read, and perhaps one that will linger with me, but I think its inclusion on the Man Booker longlist set my expectations too high.