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Old 20th September 2012, 03:36 AM   #1
CriticalSock
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Boneland - Alan Garner

Has anyone else read Boneland by Alan Garner? It's quite a thing! I posted a review on Goodreads, but I'd like to discuss it here as well. I'll put my review in spoilers below:

I read this book hoping for a romping adventure through mythology and the English countryside but I didn't get that. It turns out that the author and the characters have grown up and left me behind.

Reading Boneland is a journey that you are taken on with Colin, the main protagonist, from childhood to adulthood. It's both less and more than I hoped for, often confusing but with moments of clarity.

At times I felt like the book was a spell that by reading I was casting on myself, an it's ok you're an adult now spell, but at other times it was just confusing.

The dialogue is often ambiguous, you're not told who is saying what in a conversation and often you're not even sure where events are taking place or when.

The book turns you into Colin, when all the time I wanted (if it doesn't sound too weird) to be Susan, off among the stars with the elves. By the end though you are carried along with Colin to a healing reconciliation. It turns out it's ok to be a grown up.

There were some things that I just don't understand though.

Spoilers:

Susan, when she became physically mature at thirteen goes off with the elves, but Colin stays behind and becomes the shaman that keeps with world in balance. How did he get that job? There's no hints in the previous books that he's a shaman (or are there?).

Where has everyone else gone? Cadellin, the Morrigan, all the dwarves and things? It's the sleeper in the hill that curses Colin with forgetting and remembering so the mythology is still real (not just something from childhood) so why isn't Cadellin looking after Colin any more?

I didn't understand a lot of the shamanistic imagery. Is the author creating the mythology for this part of the story? Why when he has taken all the previous myths from existing mythology? With its Crane and Wolf elements I didn't feel like it was English (or Scandanavian) but American. It was jarring but I can't help feeling I'm missing something.


Boneland is the concluding book in the trilogy of Alderley's Edge, starting with the Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath written 50 years ago. It's a very different animal to those simple tales of adventure though

Last edited by CriticalSock; 20th September 2012 at 03:40 AM.
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Old 20th September 2012, 05:00 AM   #2
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Eek, I didn't know the book had been written! Thank you for the spoiler tags.

Garner kind of lost me with Red Shift, but I'm still prepared to give him another go.

Rolfe.
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Old 20th September 2012, 05:19 AM   #3
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Well, it has been 50 years in the waiting! I'm not surprised it's dropped off your radar.

Ah. I think you might find shades of Red Shift in Boneland too. I never actually finished Red Shift though where I read Boneland straight through. I think the references back to Weirdstone and Moon of Gomrath kept me going, if it hadn't had any connection to books I love I would have struggled with it.
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Old 20th September 2012, 09:15 AM   #4
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I thought "Red Shift" was one of the most memorable books I ever read.
I read "The Wierdstone " when I was 11-12 , a bit before I read LOTR.
Loved it. "Moon of Gomrath " and "The owl Service" I read later and found enjoyable, but I had maybe passed the perfect age.

I shamelessly read a bit of "Boneland" in the HMV coffee shop the other day.
I was put off from buying it by the price, which is high for a rather small book. I fear this is the Kindle Effect in action.

ETA- A review of "Boneland" in the Guardian, by Ursula K LeGuin (!).
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012...-garner-review

Last edited by Soapy Sam; 20th September 2012 at 09:27 AM.
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Old 20th September 2012, 02:06 PM   #5
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I read Red Shift several times. I always thought in the end I would understand it, but it never really gelled.

I really, really liked Elidor and The Owl Service.

I might ask Derek to order this new one for me. (Supporting the village book shop is playing merry hell with my book buying budget....)

Rolfe.
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Last edited by Rolfe; 20th September 2012 at 02:07 PM.
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Old 20th September 2012, 02:20 PM   #6
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I thought Red Shift was a piece of crap. I could never understand how it got published.

A lot of Alan Garner's works, including The Owl Service, could have used a bit more length and exposition. In The Owl Service I could never figure out how old the young people were. They seemed to be nearly adults, then were under the thumbs of their parents. then there was the odd bit of the young heroine, IIRC, calling her mother an old cow. Another thing i couldn't understand is why the villagers, seeing things beginning to play out in an old tragic fashion, didn't intervene and say, "Enough of this crap!"

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, as I recall, held up quite well, but The Moon of Gomrath seemed rather chaotic.
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Old 20th September 2012, 03:15 PM   #7
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The villagers are Welsh. Cue cheap stereotype where they aren't really living in the 20th century like normal folks.

The young people were sixth-formers, weren't they? I thought that transitional period was handled rather well. They're 17 or 18, but they're still "school children".

Rolfe.
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Old 20th September 2012, 05:24 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
The villagers are Welsh. Cue cheap stereotype where they aren't really living in the 20th century like normal folks.

The young people were sixth-formers, weren't they? I thought that transitional period was handled rather well. They're 17 or 18, but they're still "school children".

Rolfe.
Thanks for that clarification. It's been a while since I read The Owl Service, so I can't recall what time period it was set in I know it was meant to be twentieth century, but it always seemed to be not quite modern. Or am I just reading something into it from my native Californian perspective?
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Old 21st September 2012, 02:42 AM   #9
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It was published in 1967. At that time it was contemporary, and I can see no indication it wasn't intended to be contemporary.

The conceit of the protagonists tapping into or connecting with something ancient in the British landscape is one seen in a number of mid-20th-century young adult novels. Think Penda's Fen (OK, that was a play), and even Monica Edwards' pony stories did it once or twice.

Rolfe.
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Last edited by Rolfe; 21st September 2012 at 02:45 AM.
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Old 21st September 2012, 08:26 AM   #10
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Boneland doesn't seem to be contemporary. I don't know if the author spent all of the time since the second book writing this one, but it certainly feels like it's not set in the 21st century.

Mind you if the main character had been constantly updating his status on Facebook it wouldn't have improved matters!

Have people read it yet? I want to discuss the shamanistic imagery!
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