29 January, 2012

Living by Henry Green (1929)

Creating literature is very much a middle class pursuit and Henry Green, son of a wealthy industrialist, is no exception. But what is different about Living is that here he gives voice to the industrial workers of Birmingham of the 1920s. I don't know of any other novel set in an iron foundry and Green’s use of regional working class dialogue is central to this work’s authenticity. There is more than a hint of self-loathing here too in his vapid, nose-picking portrayal of the foundry owners' son. And yet, despite the bleak existence of the working men and women (in particular), I found Living an uplifting experience. 

08 January, 2012

The Stone Book Quartet by Alan Garner (1979)

Quite why Garner is pigeonholed as a children’s author puzzles me and this work is an example of why. The Stone Book Quartet contains four simple but beautifully crafted episodes tracing Garner’s family in rural Cheshire from the mid 1800s. Deeply felt without ever lapsing into the sentimental, this work shines a rare light on the interconnectedness of a rural village, the subtleties of working with iron and stone, and how the seasons and landscape governed life. You realise how much has changed, how quickly things can fade away.