Monday, 13 February 2017

Alan Garner's Elidor reviewed by John Fitzgerald

"Every word in Elidor is freighted with gold.

"Published in 1965, Alan Garner's third novel does for Manchester (and all cities by extension) what The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960) and Moon of Gomrath (1963) did for the valleys, woods and hills of Cheshire. He imbues the cityscape with a numinous depth charge. The stuff of everyday urban life - lamp posts, railway bridges, terraced houses - take on an almost sacramental glow, pointing to a level of understanding beyond the reach of materialist models of reality. One world segues into another. Take this passage, for instance":

Roland ran along the wider streets until his eyes were used to the dark. The moon had risen, and the glow of the city lightened the sky. He twisted down alleyways, running blindly, through crossroads, over bombed sites, and along the streets again. Roland stopped and listened. There was only the noise of the city, a low, constant rumble that was like silence.

He was in the demolition area. Roof skeletons made broken patterns against the sky. Roland searched for a place that would be safe to climb, and found a staircase on the exposed inner wall of a house. He sat on the top in the moonlight. It was freezing hard. Roofs and cobbles sparkled. The cold began to ache into him. He wondered if the others had decided to stay in one place and wait until he came.

This thought bothered him, and he was still trying to make up his mind when the unicorn appeared at the end of the street. His mane flowed like a river in the moon: the point of the horn drew fire from the stars. Roland shivered with the effort of looking. He wanted to fix every detail in his mind for ever, so that no matter what else happened there would always be this. (pp.188-192)

"Who can forget writing like this? No-one in my experience. I've never known a book, at least among my circle of friends, which retains its impact for so long in the reader's imagination. People can recall whole scenes. Either that or specific images, such as the fiddler in the slum clearance area, leap into their minds as soon as the book is mentioned."