Boneland – Alan Garner

“‘Listen. I’ll tell you. I’ve got to tell you.'”

One of the books I remember fondly from my childhood is The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, a dark children’s adventure first published in 1960, that pulled in elements of mythology and horror. A few years ago I discovered the author had penned a couple of sequels, and tried The Moon of Gomrath, written some 3 years later. While not as ‘good’ as WoB, it carried the story of Susan and Colin forward.

Completing the ‘trilogy’ comes Boneland, a book written almost 50 years on. First point to note is that it is not a children’s book. Instead, we find an adult Colin now a rather damaged individual. It sort of fits, doesn’t it? What happens to the children who have strange, magical adventures, when they find themselves back in the ‘real world’ to grow up?

To be honest, calling this part of the trilogy doesn’t quite sit right. It is just too different, tonally and intended audience. It’s more of an afterword, a coda – the author’s farewell to characters he created half a century ago.

It’s not a particularly plot-driven story, either. We switch back and forth – with no chapter breaks – between Colin and his mental health issues, talking to a psychotherapist, and prehistoric, stone-age slivers of a tale steeped in myth and superstition. When resolutions are reached… well. Are they? Yes? But.

It’s tough to recommend this book. On the one hand, I love the idea of seeing what happens when children grow up after magical adventures. But this isn’t quite the story I would have wanted from that. It is magnificently written, it has a lot of power – but it is not a simple read. Colin’s intelligence spans history, mythology, astronomy, and so much more. It’s a heady mix, a swirl of concept and feeling that I’m just not sure I grasped enough of.

Perhaps I just didn’t ‘get’ enough of it. Or perhaps, like many readers, I was taken by surprise that the final part of a trilogy could be so very very different. I’m glad the end of the decade pushed me to finish the series, but overall I guess I’m not entirely sure what I just read!

Kindle: 165 pages / no chapter breaks
First published: 2012
Series: Alderley Edge book 3 (of 3)
Read from 21st-26th December 2019

My rating: 6/10

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