Category Archives: Extraordinary People

Earth Abides: a retro review

George Stewart’s 1949 novel, Earth Abides, is singular in both senses – it is the only science fiction the University of California Professor of English ever wrote, and also a remarkably prescient and deeply moving epic. Set in the aftermath of a virus that decimates the global population – the Great Disaster that derails the human project catastrophically (at least in terms of what we think of as ‘civilisation’) – the opening chapters depict an eerily quiet and depopulated land that could easily be one in lockdown. Yet as the protagonist, Isherwood Williams, (or ‘Ish’ as he becomes known) makes his solitary way back from the wilderness where he had been undertaking field research, it soon becomes apparent that a devastating plague has swept the land, leaving fly-ridden corpses in lonely gas stations, mummified ones in the desert, and rendering the former population clusters of cities as no-go zones. And the near mass extinction event of humankind allows for a rewilding of America, in a similar way to how Victorian nature writer Richard Jefferies imagined a ‘wild England’ in his post-apocalyptic novel of 1885, After London. Yet, unlike in Jefferies, where the first half of the novel is a detailed natural history survey sans character or plot, in Stewart’s narrative, Ish is our viewpoint character who has agency. We experience this biological apocalypse through his thoughts and senses – an academic, he reflects upon what he beholds stoically. Used to his own company and absorbed by his own preoccupations, he is able to cope with a depeopled California, until finally jarred out of his solipsism by first a dog, and then by chance encounters with the diseased, deranged, or decadent few who have also survived. He embarks upon a bleak road trip to the East Coast, only to be unimpressed by the remnants he encounters. Returning to the West Coast and his former childhood home, he settles down to a quiet life, until … well, I’ll leave that for you to discover. What is refreshing about Stewart’s post-apocalypse is the anthropological approach he takes in charting the vicissitudes of the remaining survivors. He takes the long view of history, and prophesies a circularity to it … the survivors subsist upon what they can scavenge, but eventually the shelves empty or are overrun by the swarms of ants, rats, and feral canines, and the scattered tribes regress into a future primitive state. The novel shows its age in some places – most notably in its problematic descriptions of people of colour, the handicapped, and of women. And yet Stewart nearly redeems himself by lauding the main female (and mixed race) character – who is shown to have greater strength and stamina than the men.  She is rather put on a pedestal and is frequently referred to as the ‘mother of nations’ – and so this idealised feminine is just as problematic in its own way. Stewart also is far off the mark in his disavowal of climate studies as being of any relevance to future life on Earth: ‘Climatic change was not a practical problem.’ Yet for a novel written in the late 1940s, we can hardly blame the author for that blindspot, and in many ways Stewart’s sole foray into the speculative is a seminal work of Climate Fiction, and in that sense it is far ahead of the curve. It rightly won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. So, despite its weaknesses of representation, the novel has many strengths – not just the breadth of its vision, but in its non-anthropocentric shifts, and its proto-ecological tone. It foregrounds the importance of environment, and exhorts (of the earth): ‘There is nothing else by which men live’. Stewart emphasises the Earth will survive us, and is indifferent to our plight. He destabilises our imagined position as the pinnacle of creation; he also challenges the vanity of ambition, the empty intellectualism of academe (whenever it ceases to have practical purpose), and the myth of progress. All that matters, he seems to infer, is our immediate community of connections, the family (or ‘Tribe’ in its extended form), our inner resilience, adaptability, and capability. Simple skills of survival become more important than the vainglorious dreams of betterment and posterity. And yet although this heartbreakingly charts the end of the Enlightenment Project and western civilisation’s brief moment in the sun, this is ultimately a humanist and humanitarian novel, and there is deep poetry and compassion here – in the poetic, pseudo-Biblical epigraphs; and in the loving record of marriage and friendship. A haunting vision of a plague-stricken America, there is nevertheless a quiet beauty here that lingers long after the book has been put down.

Kevan Manwaring

Jötunheim

Then home the goats to the hall were driven,
They wrenched at the halters, swift were they to run;
The mountains burst, earth burned with fire,
And Othin’s son sought Jötunheim.

                                                       The Lay of Thrym

Chapter 30: Jötunheim

The world turned inside out. Eddy felt like a rubber glove pulled off the hand, his soul now on the outside. The encroaching darkness and violent chaos of the streets of Gimli was replaced a stern, silent world of intense light, which made him shield his eyes at first. It was an icy landscape, but turned up to eleven, he thought. The very ice beneath them seemed to glow with its own effulgence, reminding Eddy of the ultra-violet lights in the bars he’d played in. But here the neon was replaced with stalactites and stalagmites of fierce intensity – the fangs of a leviathan into whose mouth they were devoured. Cliffs of black glass, waterfalls of frozen prisms, rose upwards vertiginously, disappearing into the pulsing brainscape of the clouds, flickering with synaptic lightning. They rode along a precipitous path hewn from the side of a gorge that dropped into miles of mist below. Sometimes it was little more than a cornice or arête, sculpted by the glacial wind that howled down the chasm. An ice-bridge took them over to the other side, where the path hugged the cliffs like a snake. Blood pounded in Eddy’s ears, blending with the sound of a horn. Each fresh vista seemed to shout out in glory.

Eddy stopped the snow-mobile. He got off and retched; gulped down the icy air. Hand against the smooth obsidian cliff. The trembling finally eased.

‘What is this place?’ called out Eddy to his passenger.

‘Home!’ Fenja shouted with joy, holding out her bare arms, relishing the freezing air on her face. ‘Jötunheim, the realm of my father. We use the snake-hole to take a shortcut across the nine worlds.’

 ‘How do you know how to navigate it? Do you have a map?’

‘In my head,’ Fenja smiled. ‘My mother explored many of them – she had a wanderlust that did not let her go, even after she had me. Wrapped snug next to her body I would travel with her. I was weaned on her wanderings as much as her milk.’ Her gaze glistened as she scanned the distance.

‘What happened to her?’

Fenja’s mouth tightened. ‘One day she walked into a snake-hole and never came back… I like to think she’s still out there somewhere; that one day I will find her again. I thought I picked up her trail in Pompeii, but it was a dead-end – until I met you… I am sure she would not have left me on purpose. She is trying to get home, I’m convinced of it.’

Eddy slumped onto the snow-mobile, stroked the handlebars. Tears welled as he noticed the little bumps, scratches and quirks on the chassis.

Fenja slipped her arm into his. ‘What is it?’

‘My grandfather …’

She nodded. Closed her eyes. Smiled. ‘There are many afterlives … Some intersect. We merely change worlds…’

Eddy’s eyes widened. ‘How…?’

Fenja traced the two-dimensional chandelier of a frozen cobweb. ‘Our webs are connected now. I feel the filaments stretching … across time and space. Your grandfather is travelling the way of ghosts. His spirit is strong. But, I sense he does not want to journey to the Isles of the Blessed yet. He is worried about you, about the family. He watches over you with eyes of the eagle.’

Eddy brushed the tears from his face. ‘Thank you.’

‘We’d better get going. Time is different here, but in your world, the Wild Hunt is running out of it.’

The journey through the realm of the frost-giants was a dreamlike experience. They rode over ice-formations that resembled giant sculpted figures. It was often hard to tell whether the profiles were optical illusions or actual slumbering Jötun. To pass the time, Fenja described the origins of her homeworld: ‘At the beginning of all things there was a giant of giants formed from the abyss, Ymir. He was Grandfather Hrim-Thurs, the first ice-giant. He awoke starving and, groping about, found a giant cow Audhumla, formed like himself from the steam and frost. He was nourished by The Nourisher, from her four streams of milk. As she licked an ice-block for salt, the head of a god emerged, Buri. Feeling sated, Ymir slept, and from the sweat of his armpits – don’t laugh! – a son and daughter were born, and from his feet, a six-headed giant, Thrudgelmir, who begat Bergelmir – the father of all my father’s kin. These frost-giants were the natural enemy of Buri and his sons. The war waged for an aeon until Borr, son of Buri, married a giantess, who bore him three sons, Odin, Vili and Ve. You may have heard of them! They joined their father in fighting the frost-giants, and together they managed to slay Ymir, from whose vast body Midgard was formed. From his wounds gushed so much blood it created a deluge which destroyed all of his race except Bergelmir. Escaping in a boat with his wife – just like a proto-Noah and his wife – they finally found sanctuary in a remote, bleak place. Here they made their home, calling it, you’ve guessed it, Jötunheim. They set to breeding a new race of frost-giants, who grew up with an antipathy to the gods. It continues to this day, but … my father married a human – as once his ancestor had wedded a god – and he dotes on me, his daughter. Midgard was formed from the sacred bones of Ymir, after all. We are connected more than you think. And so, after much work, I finally managed to persuade Thrym, my father, to help save Earth rather than destroy it … Love really is the only thing that saves us.’

Eddy wanted to hug her there and then, but now was not the time.

They rode over bridges of ice so transparent it was as though they rode over solid air. Far down below Eddy glimpsed flower-starred meadows irrigated by tumbling cataracts, the turrets of noble dwellings surrounded by thick forests, lakes of shimmering beauty, and wildlife of magnificent grandeur – everything on a larger scale.

They finally paused for refreshment at a glittering spring, which gurgled from the cliff-hugging roots of a vast yew tree, the branches of which formed pathways across the chasm. Sitting in the bend of one of these, they held one another, and admired the view.

‘The popular idea of Jötunheim being gloomy is mainly thanks to the propaganda of the gods and those ne’er-do-well storytellers. They make us out to be oafish barbarians, easily fooled by the cheap tricks of the wily Aesir. Hah! Well, now you know the truth behind all those tales of the “cross-dressing” Thunder God! The gods aren’t what they seem, and neither are my people. Like most creatures of the nine worlds, they want to be able to live and thrive in peace.’

Fenja turned to him, a strange light in her eyes. ‘They want to be able to raise their offspring.’

It was hard to tell if it was the enervating spring water, or Fenja’s words that made him shiver with delight, but before he could pursue that thought, she grabbed his hand.

‘Come! The Wild Hunt! One more ride and we should make it there.’

‘Back to Reykjavik?’

‘No. The battle has moved inland, to the Plain of Vigrid.’

‘Where’s that?’

‘The crack in the world, where the final reckoning will transpire.’

***

Extract from Thunder Road by Kevan Manwaring

Copyright (c) 2020

If you like what you read why not buy me a coffee?

https://ko-fi.com/kevanmanwaring

Showdown

_MG_3607smaller.jmSTpXCYhovG.jpg

‘Today is a good day to die.’

Little, Big Man

Chapter 29: Showdown

Eddy and his grandfather rode their snow-mobiles back along the tracks they had made towards Gimli. The geometric skyline of the settlement emerged from the white landscape, like paper shapes cut out of the sky. The light, what little of it there was, drained rapidly from the coastline as the Earth rolled inevitably into the dark. The eastern side of the lake was already overwhelmed by the penumbra. Like a wave of dark rain, it swept towards the western shore.

‘We’re losing light!’ hollered Running Bear. ‘Step on the gas!’

The grandfather revved ahead, leaping over the ramp of a snow-drift with a grunt.

They raced down towards the outskirts of the rural municipality, but instead of turning off for the Redcrow homestead, the grandfather led them straight to the recreation hall. The journey to the shack and back, the talking … it had taken longer than they’d thought. The precious light had slipped away.

They turned down the main avenue. Only a couple of blocks and they’ll be there.

A murder of crows lifted from the rooftops, making Eddy turn his head just as something hissed past.

Another missile hit the side of the snow-mobile, bouncing off.

‘Ambush!’ cried his grandfather, steering his ride in an erratic pattern.

Eddy checked his mirrors and saw the night-cloaked riders emerge from the gathering shadows, the eyes, nostrils and mouths of their steeds burning hungry fire.

Eddy copied his Running Bear’s crazy dance – just like in the powwow.  He’d once seen his grandfather light as a kicking foal, lifting up his legs to the thunder of the drums. Now Death held the beater and made them both dance.

The runestone was heavy on Eddy’s back, slipped into a knapsack. He prayed it would not get struck by a stray bolt. It was too precious to lose. So much was riding on it.

Suddenly, he heard his grandfather cry out and slump onto his controls. The bike swerved and ditched in a snow-drift.

‘No!’

Eddy raced to him. Three crossbow bolts stuck out of his back like porcupine quills. The old man coughed blood. ‘Go! Leave me!’

‘Never!’ roared Eddy. He lifted his grandfather onto his bike as the hooves of the horses pounded closer, bolts hissing into the drift.

The deadweight of his grandfather slumped forward onto him, Eddy hit the revs and the snow-mobile blasted away just as the riders reached them. The snow churned up in their faces provided him with temporary cover.

Accelerating down the avenue, he knew he had lost the precious gap between them and it was only a matter of time before a bolt found his own back.

Up ahead was the turning for the recreation centre and, for a second he thought about drawing the raiders away, but he knew that would be a suicide mission, and he had to get his grandfather to the doctor.

He swung the bike right, and gunned it towards the hall, the raiders hot on his tail. ‘Hold on grandfather! I’m gonna get you some help!’

Bolts hissed closer and closer, clanging against the chassis. As one reloaded another fired in a single swift movement.

Suddenly the report of a firearm bounced off the walls of the surrounding buildings and one of the raiders fell as his horse toppled beneath him.

Ahead, the sheriff was providing covering fire.

Eddy skidded onto the forecourt. ‘He needs help!’

Rivet nodded to a couple of the men as she kept blasting. ‘Get him inside!’

They lifted him from the snowmobile, but the old man protested.

‘Leave me be…’ Running Bear made a weak gesture, shooed them away. Back against the wall, he slumped. Blood trickled from his mouth.

‘No! The doctor…’

‘It’s too late, Eddy. But don’t worry… Death is merely a change of worlds.’ Running Bear smiled, and then was seized with pain. ‘Stay on the Red Road, grandson. Save Gimli, save the wo…’

‘Grandfather!’ Eddy screamed, grabbing Running Bear as he toppled forward.

His world turned to black ice; shattered into a million pieces.

Rivet cried out, staggering back, clutching her arm – a crossbow bolt skewering it. Gritting her teeth, she aimed and fired back. But it was hopeless.

The Raiders swept by in a hail of bolts. At least seven of them survived and they had all night.

The wound made Rivet weaker. ‘Eddy, get inside. Lock the door…’

He shook his head. Took up his grandfather’s rifle and stood by her side. ‘Not a chance, sheriff. I’m gonna take some of those fuckers down with me.’

Together, they stood side-by-side and fired at the encroaching enemy.

The raiders circled, their cloaks enlarging their silhouette against the snow and making it harder to strike a vital organ.

‘They’re mocking us…’ said Rivet, wincing and holding her arm to her side.

Both of them were wounded in different ways. Eddy could not believe that his grandfather had been taken. The anger kept him going, but inside, he was turning to stone.

Gunshots snapped them both back. Gunfire coming from the surrounding buildings. The raiders reacted swiftly, returning fire into the darkness.

‘Who?’

‘Must be BZ and his gang,’ Rivet spat through gritted teeth. ‘They’ve come back.’

For a moment, Eddy’s heart leapt. Back-up!

The door to the hall opened and Siggy came running out. ‘Grandfather!’ Magnus lingered on the threshold. ‘Siggy! Come back here! It’s not safe!’

Eddy turned to her. ‘He … didn’t make it.’ His words were like pebbles in his mouth. ‘I’m sorry …’

His sister cradled the limp body of their grandfather, shaking with grief.

‘Come, let’s carry him inside…’ Magnus gently helped her up, and together they lifted the body with some effort.

Magnus looked at Eddy. ‘Do you best.’

They carried the body inside and closed the door.

Out of the darkness came screams. The gunfire fell silent. Shapes moved in the shadows.

‘What the hell?’ breathed Eddy.

Six of the raiders remained and now there seemed to be something else out there, prowling on all fours.

One of the creatures savaged a gang member, who blasted away at it.

Then the screaming stopped, and a savage howl split the night, joined by a feral chorus carrying across the rooftops.

Eddy and Rivet gave each other a look – the whites of their eyes standing out in the gloom.

Suddenly the horses of the raiders whickered, turning nervously. Something was coming down the avenue. They could feel it approach – the vibration of each slow step.

‘What next? A buffalo stampede?’ spat Rivet.

Around the corner, stark against the snow, came a giant figure, snapping off a stop light as its massive bulk brushed past.

‘Oh no…’ said Eddy.

‘What the …?’ whispered Rivet.

The first frost giant was joined by two more. They towered over the rooftops, the phone lines and lamp-posts.

Eddy recognised the three giants from the ice.

‘Oh fuck…’ His hands shook as he tried to take aim with the rifle. Then he noticed the woman walking in front, dressed in a strange tunic, arms bare, spiky blonde hair like a flame.

‘Fen…?’

The Jötun towered before the raiders. For a moment they stood – a strange mythic encounter on the streets of Gimli. The leader of the raiders trotted forward, crossbow raised. He spoke some harsh, piercing language – they sounded like nails scraped over broken glass.

The first of the giants suddenly raised its massive foot and brought it down on the raider.

The other raiders retaliated – sending a hail of bolts at the assailant, who brushed them off like midge bites. The other two Jötun waded in.

While the raiders and the giants were engaged Fenja ran forward. ‘Eddy! Quickly! You must come with me! I’ve negotiated a truce with my kind – but who knows how long it will last. Do you have the runestone?’

‘Yes.’

Eddy stepped forward. ‘Tell my family I love them!’

‘Where are you going?’ Rivet called.

‘To end this. Where it began!’ he shouted back.

‘Eddy! The snow-mobile!’ Fenja commanded.

He leapt on and fired it up.

‘Any chance of a ride?’ Fenja smiled.

‘Hop on.’

They rode between the legs of the giants as the battle raged around them.

Fenja reached out a hand and scratched the air with a long fingernail.

Ahead, a slit in the dark street appeared – a tear in reality. It made Eddy’s head hurt to look at it. Beyond glowed a cold blue light.

‘Go! Now! Before it seals!’ Fenja called, and Eddy rode the snowmobile into the closing portal.

***

Extract from Thunder Road by Kevan Manwaring

Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2020

The Lighthouse

The Gimli Harbour Master's building and lighthouse, constructed in 1910, rebuilt 1974.

We are the Weavers and we weave the thread,

measuring the span of the quick, the dead.
Urd on her spindle, Verdandi, her rule,

And Skuld with the scissors to cut them all.

Chapter 27: The Lighthouse

The small group made their way through the freezing mist – the only sound, the breathing of Eddy and Siggy’s exertion, carrying the makeshift stretcher, and the occasional grunt of pain from their charge. The doctor walked on in front, stopping frequently to orientate himself in the defamiliarised streets – lit by sparse pools of sodium, the shadows between more of a presence than an absence. Flanking them, the two patches, irons poised, scanning the white silence for any hostile signals.

Eddy grunted with the effort, still weak from his epic ride. ‘How far is this med-centre again?’

‘It’s two, three blocks, tops,’ replied his sister, her speech manifesting as a cloud. ‘Keep you’re end up!’

‘That is, if ole Doc Halliday here can remember the way…’

The old physician had paused once again at a crossroads – the stop-light blinking its idiot signals to the snow-bound main street. A side-wind hit them, sending up flurries from the drifts.

‘Jeezus, come on doc, we’re freezing our butts off out here!’ said one of the patches, who was clutching his side.

‘Gonna fuckin’ bleed to death too!’ groaned the figure on the stretcher.

‘Gimme a moment. It all looks so strange like this…’

‘What? and you haven’t seen Gimli under snow before! How long have you lived here?’ complained the other.

‘Hey guys! Give him some space!’ said Siggy. ‘But do hurry up before my arms drop off!’

A trash can was knocked over, bottles spilling onto each other. Everyone froze. The patches raised their weapons in the same direction.

‘It’s gotta be a fox or something…’ said Eddy, teeth chattering.

‘Shhh!’ hissed his sister.

Out of the mist came a figure, walking in a haphazard way.

The old woman, dressed in a thick bath robe and once fluffy slippers, had restless, darting eyes and long, unruly hair. Her skin was like Egyptian parchment.

The doctor stepped forward. ‘Ah, Mrs Clutterbuck! You gave us all a fright! What are you doing out in this infernal weather? You’re not really dressed for it, are you?’

The patches relaxed, one cursing, the other spitting into the snow.

‘I heard horses…’ She scanned the blank printout of the mist. ‘Is there a parade today? I do love parades.’

‘Not today, Mrs Clutterbuck. Now, come along with us. You’ll catch your death like that. Let’s get you to the med-centre.’

‘Catch your death … the med-centre,’ she muttered, about turning and walking confidently off. 

‘Come on!’ said the doctor. ‘She knows the way, even in her sleep!’

‘Great! Now it’s the mad leading the blind!’ whispered Eddy.

Siggy shushed him, but smiled.

The group followed the woman as she walked down the street.

‘Hey, I recognise where we are now!’ puffed Siggy. ‘This is Highway 9. Look! That’s the Husky over there!’

On their right the gas station emerged, a couple of station wagons drifted over in the forecourt.

‘I can’t feel my arms anymore!’ moaned Eddy.

‘You big baby! Look at this guy. He’ll die if we don’t get him to the Health Centre!’

‘Hey! If I die, your dead, you hear! Dead fucking meat!’

Eddy looked down at the wounded gang member, tattooed face in profile.

‘Weren’t these guys just about to shoot the sheriff and take over the town?’

‘That’s by the by, now,’ said Siggy. ‘They’re part of our community, and they helped defend it. We owe them.’

Eddy thought of his old high school friend, Junkie Jon, as everyone called him. Got into the hard stuff. Hell, everyone tried everything back then – but Jon … he didn’t know when to stop. He’d never forget finding him in the shack, passed out. He thought he was dead. It had been close. But Eddy had managed to call an ambulance just in time. Jon’s life had been on the skids since dropping out of school. Eddy had tried to keep in touch, but it was hard. He was moving on, trying to make something of himself – admittedly not much – but he held down a job, even if it was in the local garage, and he had his band. Jon … all he had was Madame Heroin. The odd bit of folklore came back to him then, from a friend who had travelled to Thailand. They believed tobacco originated from the breasts of an old woman who died, and from her grave grew the plant where her nipples used to be. And from between her legs grew opium. It was the ultimate death trip.

He hoped he was okay.

Eddy was ripped back from his morbid reverie by his sister abruptly stopped, making him nearly drop the stretcher.

‘What gives, sis?’

‘Listen!’

Eddy strained to hear. Just the stifling silence of the mist. Their breathing. But then he felt it through his feet. Horses!

‘The raiders! They’re coming this way!’ whispered Siggy. ‘We need to get off this road! Mrs Clutterbuck! Mrs Clutterbuck!’

The old lady carried on shuffling along the avenue, oblivious.

‘There’s nothing we can do. Come on!’ Eddy insisted, dragging his sister away.

Reaching the junction of Centre Street, they swung left, and hurried down the sidewalk,  hugging the walls close.

‘That doorway!’ the doctor pointed to the covered entrance to a store.

They just made cover when the riders appeared – dark silhouettes with cloaks and crossbows.

‘Who the fuck are they? The Nazgul?’ Eddy breathed.

The riders galloped straight past, heading south.

For a heartbeat they thought they had got away with it; but then the thunder of hooves stopped, and resumed, getting closer again.

‘Fuck!’ whispered Siggy.

The riders appeared at the junction, and turned their snorting steeds towards them. They wore what looked like black skull masks beneath hoods. The eyes and mouths of the horses glowed with fire.

‘Run!’ screamed Siggy.

The patches covered their flight, firing at the approaching riders, who appeared and disappeared in the mist.

Eddy didn’t see what became of them, just heard their screams.

They struggled on, but with the man on the stretcher it was pointless. It would only be a matter of seconds before the riders caught them up. The cars strewn across the road broke their gallop and bought them some time, but not much. Their pursuers took to the sidewalk. There must have been a dozen of them. One took aim, and a crossbow bolt whizzed by Eddy’s head, shattering a shop window.

‘Go! Leave me!’ muttered the wounded man.

‘We can’t!’ cried the doctor, gasping for breath.

‘I owe these bastards. I’ve got some bullets left.’

Eddy nodded, and Siggy reluctantly lowered the stretcher.

They ran on, helping the doctor, who was beside himself with fear. Behind, they heard the gunshots. A horse whinnied; then, a scream.

They made it past Fifth Avenue, Fourth, before the riders appeared again.

Eddy felt a stitch starting to develop. Siggy was faster, and helped the doctor. He wished he had a gun, something!

They pushed on past Third, but by Second the riders had caught them up; were upon them. Crossbow bolts whistled by their ears. One struck the doctor in the leg and he howled in pain, toppled over, taking Siggy with him.

‘Sizzers!’

Eddy crumpled by her side, shielding her protectively with his body.

The riders formed a half-circle around them, their steeds snorting fire. Taking their time, they reloaded their crossbows, then, as one they raised their weapons.

The scene around them took on a surreal vividness. Here they were, right on the main drag: first avenue. A sign read ‘Welcome to Gimli: your place in the sun’. A signpost pointed to the ‘historic’ Harbour Masters Building and Lighthouse, and the Lake Winnipeg Visitor Centre beyond. Had he come all this way, endure so much, on to die here, on this crummy Centre Street?

‘Fenja…’ was his last thought.

Then there was the deafening report of a rifle and a rider went down, blasted off the back of his horse, which reared up, panicked the others. The formation broke, and another rider went down.

It took a moment for Eddy to work out what was going on.

‘I know the sound of that rifle!’ shouted Siggy. ‘The lighthouse, now!’

Lifting up the doctor, they frogmarched him towards the Harbour Masters Office, where the tell-tale flash of a rifle could be glimpsed from the lighthouse.

They scrambled inside and collapsed.

A man in a winter hunting gear appeared at the foot of the stairs wielding a rifle. He made his way to the door and checked the street, before closing it, and pushing a chair against it.

‘Think we’re safe for now. I’ve given ’em something to think about.’ The man pulled back his hood and yanked off the balaclava from his face.

‘Grandfather! I knew it was you!’ Siggy leapt up and gave the old man a hug.

‘Ow! Steady now, you’ll break me in two!’ he chuckled, wincing in pain.

‘Are you hurt?’

‘Oh, it’s nothing.’ Running Bear pushed her away. ‘Quit your fussing. Worst than the wife, Great Mystery protect her.’

‘Here, let me have a look.’ The doctor got shakily to his feet. He looked done in, thought Eddy. Still in shock.

Nevertheless, his professional concern took over. ‘Take off your jacket; open your shirt. Sit down, don’t move.’

‘One sec there, doc. Here, can you use this thing?’ Running Bear offered Eddy the rifle.

Eddy was surprised. His grandfather had barely spoken to him since he’d got back. ‘You used to take me hunting, remember?’

‘Oh? I’d forgotten! Thought you weren’t interested in that stuff anymore! Just motorbikes, guitars and girls.’

‘Well, they have their appeal…’ Eddy smiled, but took the rifle with a nod.

‘Keep your eyes peeled. From the tower. Best spot.’ The old man finally settled and let himself be poked and tested.

Siggy nodded. ‘He’ll be fine with me. Do what he says!’

Eddy knew better than protest. He made his way up the lighthouse and sat in the eye, keeping watch down the street. He found a blanket and a pair of binoculars, plus a spare round of ammo.

Dropping down wearily, he settled in for the vigil. There wasn’t anything moving out there. He could just make out the Chinese, and the Art Club, the flats with the Robin beneath, and the quayside parking. Adrenalin alone kept him alert. That was a close call!

Eddy had nearly nodded off, when his grandfather appeared at the top of the stairs, carrying a flask of coffee. ‘You’re not sleeping on the job, are you?’

‘What? No, gramps. I’ve been awake the whole time.’

‘Move over, give me that. Here, this’ll help.’

Running Bear exchanged the gun for the flask. He checked the barrel and the sights, and scanned the street.

‘I thought you were meant to be resting?’ Eddy smiled, filling the cup. ‘Do you want any?’

‘No thanks. Can’t sleep. Doc patched me up, said I had a broken rib. I had to climb over a fence when I first ran into the raiders. Landed badly. Ain’t as nimble as I used to be!’

‘Grandpa, you’re amazing! You have saved practically the whole of Gimli from the raiders, single-handedly! You’re a hero!’

Running Bear snorted at that. Watched the street.

‘How’s Siggy?’

‘She’s resting. Tough one, that grand-daughter of mine. You could do with some of her grit, boy.’

Eddy sipped his coffee, smirking.

His grandfather turned. ‘I can hear you smiling. What’s so funny?’

‘Oh, just thinking about how I’ve fought with armed biker gangs, giants, a monstrous serpent, and I rode across the Atlantic ocean… I guess that doesn’t count as grit?’

Running Bear gave him a hard look. ‘Grit is about being reliable when the chips are down, about digging in and making it count. Not going off, having fairy tale adventures!’ He coughed, and winced.

‘Take it easy, gramps. I guess you set the bar high when it comes to grit.’

The old man stared out at the misty vista. ‘It’s a hard, hard world out there. You need to be tough to survive, boy.’

‘I’m doing my best.’

‘You need to do better. You need to be the strong one, when I’m gone. Someone has to look after the family. ‘ Another coughing fit.

Eddy took a long sip of coffee. This was a prospect he wasn’t anticipating.

‘Gramps, we need to get to the health centre, get supplies, head back to the sports hall with the doc. People may need us.’

‘We ain’t going nowhere till sun up. The raiders … I’ve got a feeling they’re nocturnal. We’ve got a good three hours till first light. Drink up that coffee. And tell me about your trip. It’s going to be a long night…’

***

Extract from Thunder Road by Kevan Manwaring

Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2020

Bardfest 2020

BARDFEST 2020 POSTER update

Saturday, 22nd August, 2020, from noon til late

BARDFEST 2020

Poetry*Storytelling*Music*Talks

A day of vibrant voices celebrating the living Bardic Tradition in the British Isles and beyond. Join us to be entertained and stimulated by our inspiring line-up of poets, storytellers, musicians, and speakers. After each slot there will be a chance to discuss, make comments, and ask questions.

CONFIRMED CONTRIBUTORS

Nicola Chester – Berkshire-based nature-writer, Guardian Columnist, Author, Wild Writing Workshops.Blog: https://nicolachester.wordpress.com/  Twitter @nicolawriting @JogLibrary

Kirsty Hartsiotis – storyteller and art-historian.https://www.kirstyhartsiotis.co.uk/

Daru McAleece – druid, bard Website – https://tracscotland.org/storytellers/daru-mcaleece/  Website for anthology – https://www.hauntpublishing.com/books/haunted-voices

Paul Flinn – runner, poet

Rob Farmer – singer-songwriter https://robertfarmer.bandcamp.com/

Charlotte Hussey – Canadian poet (Glossing the Spoils; Soul of the Earth from Awen)

Helen Moore – ecopoet, writer, socially engaged artist & outdoor educator https://www.helenmoorepoet.com/

Peter Alfred Please – storyteller and writer http://www.peteralfredplease.co.uk/

Kirsten Bolwig – writer & storyteller Linked In profile

Brendan Georgeson – pop poet

Richard & Misha Carder –  Gorsedd of Caer Badon (Bath),  co-ordinators of the long-running ‘Poetry and a Pint’ night in Bath.

Henk Vis – druid, Avebury gorsedd

Gordon Rimes – musical bard of Avebury gorsedd

Scott Freer – banjo-maestro

Simon Andrews – singer-songwriter

Svanur Gisli Thorkelsson – Icelandic writer and tour-guide

Marko Gallaidhe – Irish musician and writer

Kevan Manwaring – author, lecturer, and storyteller

& more

Online via Zoom (100 maximum – booked early to guarantee a space).

Donations invited to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and the Trussell Trust.

Please make a donation, then contact Kevan for Zoom details.

https://www.wiltshirewildlife.org/

https://www.trusselltrust.org/

Contact Kevan: kevanmanwaring@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

Sovereignty, Masculinity, and Hierarchy in Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light.

Amazon.com: The Mirror and the Light (9780008366735): Hilary ...I have just finished reading Hilary Mantel’s magnificent conclusion to her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, and apart from feeling somewhat bereft (now that I no longer have the double Booker Prize winner’s exquisite evocation of Tudor England to immerse myself in during lockdown) I find myself reflecting upon some of its themes.

Sovereignty

The Wolf Hall Trilogy is dominated by two characters – Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s lad from Putney who through his own remarkable intelligence and tenacity, rises to become earl and the monarch’s right-hand man; and Henry Tudor. Their tense friendship I will deal with in the next section, but here I wanted to consider the portrait of sovereignty Henry VIII offers. Far more complex and nuanced than many portrayals of the king over the centuries (in paintings; plays – Shakespeare’s last; novels; films; comic books; ad infinitum, it seems) Mantel’s Henry is intelligent, painfully self-aware, conflicted, and dangerous. The ultimate alpha male in many ways, his unconscionable treatment of his unfortunate (though often equally formidable) wives, heretics, religious real estate, sacred icons, and any one who got in his way or in his bad books, still qualifies him as the villain of the piece. Mantel does not white wash him in the least. And yet Henry’s extreme solipsism and terminally inflated ego – what we might call today a narcissistic personality disorder – is the result of the whole ridiculous edifice of royalty: that is inherent privilege, entitlement, and so-called noble blood. The whole machinery of state, the oil of society, and the sweat of the commoners, supports this invented status – as fictional as anything devised by the best storyteller. For centuries the divine right of kings was a given – to question it was treason, and (very painful) death. Now we still have ‘royalty’, their power often diminished to tokenistic roles, but the creaking institution of monarchy continues. Henry Tudor is a portrait of a man with too much power, whose every capricious whim must be indulged – whose changing moods assail the nation he rules like a tempest. All of his ills are projected onto demonised enemies. Those in favour one week, find themselves anathema the next. Any institution in his way is dismantled. All is fuel to his pyre. In this respect Mantel’s Henry is a portrait with topical resonance. There are many demagogues and tyrants around the world but one in particular stands out. Mantel clearly didn’t write the trilogy as a critique of Trump, but it is hard not to draw a comparison – reading chapters in tandem with seeing the latest insane tweet or briefing from the American president shared all over the news and social media. It is a portrait of how not to be a king, of a kind of anti-sovereignty. Henry Tudor was not a great ruler, because he could not even rule himself. Born to ‘rule’, he is like the classic spoilt child who is never given firm boundaries. Nobody tells Henry what to do. It is ironic that his brother Arthur died young – symbolic in a way of a true portrait of sovereignty, King Arthur: the legendary king of Britain and the epitome of everything Henry was not. In truth, any leader will project our hopes and expectations onto will eventually disappoint. The real sovereignty is found within. Thomas Cromwell, the self-mastered man, found it – and I suspect that is what worried Henry more than anything. His talented servant was more kingly than he ever could dream to be. And Cromwell rose, through his own remarkable merits, to be the most powerful man in England. But of course alpha males cannot accept any competition. And so off with his head.

Masculinity

Although Mantel’s searing portrait of Henry VIII is a masterclass in toxic masculinity, the Wolf Hall Trilogy in its entirety offers many positive portraits of maleness – indeed, although the female characters are significant and often sympathetically wrought (although just as flawed and conflicted as the men), it is the men who dominate the proceedings in almost every way conceivable. The author delights in the company of her male characters and her best dialogue is often in their (private) company – in the intimate exchanges between friends, allies, and rivals behind closed doors. Cromwell’s coterie is lit up by the sparky exchanges between the bright wits and strong personalities of Rafe Sadler, Richard Riche, Gregory his son, Richard his nephew, Christophe, and Call-me-Wriothesley. There is an electrifying jousting of intellect, strategy, and diplomacy between Cromwell and Eustache Chapuys, the ambassador of Spain – one of the most touching friendships in the series (perhaps Cromwell’s only true equal or kindred spirit). Then there are the posturing and jockeying men of the Court – Charles Brandon, Norfolk, Thomas Wyatt; men of the cloth – Stephen Gardiner, Cranmer, Barnes, Cardinal Wolsey (Cromwell’s mentor and a ghostly presence in the last novel), Thomas More (gone but not forgotten); and then the various fathers and brothers, pushing their daughters and sisters forward under the King’s eye, into his bed, hoping for elevation of status. Cromwell is a great patron of the gutternsnipe, the chancer, the cocky lad, and the underdog. He ‘fathers’ them all, and in his way is a good a husband and father as circumstances would allow – until tragedy strikes. The appearance of an unexpected daughter shakes his world – and sense of self-worth – to its foundations. He cannot help but feel a failure, despite all his many triumphs. And yet it is because of this fallibility that we get a rounded, realistic, and affirming portrait of masculinity.  Cromwell is far from perfect, but he is a whole man. Over nearly two thousand pages Mantel limns in minutiae the consciousness of a single human being to a dizzying degree, reclaimed and rehabilitated from history.

Hierarchy

Finally, the Wolf Hall Trilogy explores various notions of hierarchy, of hegemonic power structures. These are ultimately what did for Cromwell. In the eyes of the aristocracy he could never quite shake the mud from his boots. Not that he tried to deny his humble origins. Indeed he wears it sometimes as a badge of honour. He is more in touch with the people than the court, certainly than the king. He experiences the full gamut of society. He rises from the open midden of Putney – his face pressed to the cobbles by his father’s boot – to the highest offices in the land. He accrues great wealth, land, titles, and power – but he never ‘lords’ it over anyone; he certainly doesn’t seem to abuse his power. Undoubtedly he had an excellent head for business and prospered accordingly, but one senses this isn’t what was motivating him. Cromwell did not seek to better himself for that reason – but for his own personal development perhaps. To see how far a man could go. And yet his extraordinary progress was ‘vaulting ambition’ to his enemies. The status quo, which maintained the power and wealth in the hands of the few, felt threatened by such advancement. If one commoner could rise so far – then, heaven forfend, others could as well. And that was the one crime the Tudor elite could to countenance. The multiple homicides of Henry VIII and the daily horrors of religious persecution, capital punishment, and extreme poverty, were acceptable. But not social mobility. Cromwell begins the trilogy being brutalised by his father, the thuggish Walter – and ends being crushed by his surrogate ‘bad father’: Henry Tudor. Throughout his time serving the king Cromwell is forced to endure continual threat of execution, unexpected punishment, passive aggression, mockery, and ingratitude. It could be argued that he ‘acts out’ his relationship with his father through his relationship with his king, to whom he becomes a whipping boy, however ‘favoured’. Cromwell is constantly reminded of his place in the pecking order – he is not born into privilege or power or wealth. Henry’s fool, Patch, rudely reminds Cromwell of this – in front of the whole court. When this no longer serves to put the Putney boy, nicknamed ‘Put-an-edge-on-it’, in his place, the machinery of the system grinds inexorably towards its doom: the reaper in the clock, present from the first page, can wait no longer to administer the coup-de-grace.

Ultimately, The Wolf Hall Trilogy offers an unflinching and deeply perceptive insight into human nature. Mantel’s Cromwell is a masterful instauration of one of history’s unflattering characters: Holbein’s ‘heavy’ turns out to be the prototype Rennaissance man. In its scintillating language, its glittering rhetoric, elegant statecraft, profound historicity, and life-affirming connoisseurship of civilisation it is a counterblast to the endemic vilification of the intellectual, the liberal, and the nuanced we face today in public discourse. It is a message in a bottle from four hundred years ago (via a 21st Century mind) of our rare and precious humanity. All that our mercurial human nature is capable of – the very worst and the very best.

 

© Kevan Manwaring 19 May 2020

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate, 2020)

 

 

Trees, Poets, & Fairies: Sketchtember 2019

Having started Sketchtember last year (as a kind of prelude to the popular Inktober) I felt duty-bound to have another go this year, although as John Lennon once sang: ‘Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans…’ It’s been a hectic month, and I only got around to a bardic dozen, but for the record – here they are. I enjoyed doing them, and, of course, it’s about process, not product – I find sketching can be relaxing when I’m not too tired. I wish I sketched more often, without any arbitrary goals like this – but, there you go! It helped stop my sketching muscle from completely atrophying. Now all I have to do is keep the practice going all year round…

 

The Golden Room podcast: Episode #2

The Golden Room Logo

The Golden Room podcast #02

An Ecobardic Showcase (part 2)

Welcome to The Golden Room podcast – a celebration of poetry, storytelling, music, song, conversation, and creative fellowship.

Created and hosted by writer, poet, and storyteller Kevan Manwaring, the plan is to release a new episode on the 3rd Sunday of the month – with this double launch on the Autumn Equinox being the exception! Roughly an hour long, each episode offers an immersive and relaxing medley of contributions – ideal to commute to, cook to, or sit back and unwind to: however you listen you are most welcome into The Golden Room.

50th BIRTHDAY POSTER new

The first two episodes offer a chance to eavesdrop upon An Ecobardic Showcase, a special evening which took place in Stroud, Gloucestershire, on 17th August, 2019. It was a double-celebration of Kevan Manwaring’s 50th and his doctorate. Proceeds went to Tree Aid – a worthy cause which you can still donate too (see below).

The evening was excellently MCed by the inimitable Anthony Nanson. His links and much of the convivial atmosphere is edited out, to tidy up the raw recording (expertly done by Chantelle Smith; with help from Brendan Georgeson on PA, and thanks to Simon Fairbourn for loan of the recording device) , but we hope you still get some sense of the atmosphere.

LISTEN TO THE GOLDEN ROOM PODCAST #02 HERE

Tracks:

    1. [00:00] Intro by Kevan Manwaring/Reverie by Rosemary Duxbury
      (Catherine Musker, viola and Patricia Siffert, piano)
    2. [02:14] Welcome – a song by Chantelle Smith
    3. [02:38] The Harvest of Friendship – a poem by Kevan Manwaring
    4. [04:28] Skaldic Birthday Tribute – a poem by Svanur Gisli Thorkelsson
    5. [07: 03] Both Sides o’ Tweed – song by Dick Gaughan/performed by Marko Gallaidhe
    6. [09:45] The Tories are Going to Eat Us – a poem by Robin Treefellow
    7. [12:13] Un garçon pas comme les autres – a song performed by Violette Aubry
    8. [15:00] Lob – poem by Edward Thomas; with additional text from William Anderson; adapted and performed by Paul Flinn
    9. [18:10] The Corn King – a song by Earthwards (Jehanne & Rob Mehta; Will Mercer)
    10. [22:03] Extinction Rebellion/No, I Don’t Want to be Arrested, Helen – poems by Steve Micalef
    11. [22:57] Stoats and Rabbits – a tale by Peter Please
    12. [32:07] The Field of Runnymede – a song by Earthwards
    13. [36:03] The Axe: the call of the Earth – a story by Kirsten Bolwig 
    14. [43:26] The Magic Arrows – a story by Anthony Nanson
    15. [51:19] May Queen – a song by Simon Andrews
    16. [54:49] Once Upon a Pimplov – monologue by Jim Tom … Say?
    17. [59:13] Jack in the Green – a song by Simon Andrews

      TREE AID LOGO

If you have enjoyed listening to An Ecobardic Showcase please donate to Tree Aid and help fight poverty & protect the environment…

https://www.justgiving.com/treeaid

NEXT UP – THE GOLDEN ROOM EPISODE #3: An Extinction Cabaret special!

 

The Golden Room podcast: Episode #1

The Golden Room Logo

The Golden Room podcast #1

An Ecobardic Showcase (pt 1)

Welcome to The Golden Room podcast – a celebration of poetry, storytelling, music, song, conversation, and creative fellowship.

Created and hosted by writer, poet, and storyteller Kevan Manwaring, the plan is to release a new episode on the 3rd Sunday of the month – with this double launch on the Autumn Equinox being the exception! Roughly an hour long, each episode offers an immersive and relaxing medley of contributions – ideal to commute to, cook to, or sit back and unwind to: however you listen you are most welcome into The Golden Room.

50th BIRTHDAY POSTER new

The first two episodes offer a chance to eavesdrop upon An Ecobardic Showcase, a special evening which took place in Stroud, Gloucestershire, on 17th August, 2019. It was a double-celebration of Kevan Manwaring’s 50th and his doctorate. Proceeds went to Tree Aid – a worthy cause which you can still donate too, here:

https://www.justgiving.com/treeaid

The evening was excellently MCed by the inimitable Anthony Nanson. His links and much of the convivial atmosphere is edited out, to tidy up the raw recording (expertly done by Chantelle Smith; with help from Brendan Georgeson on PA, and thanks to Simon Fairbourn for loan of the recording device), but we hope you still get some sense of the atmosphere. Finally, many thanks to BAFTA Crew composer Rosemary Duxbury, for kindly allowing use of her sublime track, ‘Reverie’. Check out my interview and review of her latest release, ‘Thread of Gold’, after listening to the show.

LISTEN TO THE GOLDEN ROOM PODCAST #01 HERE

Tracks:

  1. [00:00] Intro: Kevan Manwaring
  2. [00:47] Reverie: Rosemary Duxbury  (Catherine Musker, viola & Patricia Siffert, piano)/[02:15] The Golden Room by Wilfrid Gibson, read by Kevan Manwaring
  3. [07:59] Welcome: a song by Chantelle Smith
  4. [08:22] Fifty: a poem by Kevan Manwaring
  5. [10:46] Mist-covered Mountains: a song by Chantelle Smith
  6. [13:20] The Dog: a story by Wayland the Skald
  7. [21:21] A Valentine for New Albion: a poem by Jeff Cloves
  8. [29:18] Overheard at Ascot; What the I Says: poems by Gabriel Bradford Millar (with Anthony Nanson)
  9. [32:35] Pan at My Window: a poem by Richard Austin
  10. [34:44] Planet Blues: a song by Sara Vian
  11. [37:51] Therapy: a poem by Brendan the Pop Poet
  12. [40:22] The Earth, She Moves Within: a poem by Joziat Khimba
  13. [45:45] The Butterfly Bishop: story by Kirsty Hartsiotis
  14. [55:21] Claw-hammer: Banjo by Scott Freer
  15. [59:10] Outro: by Kevan Manwaring/Reverie – reprise.


NEXT: THE GOLDEN ROOM EPISODE #2 An Ecobardic Showcase pt 2 – available from 22nd September. 

Look out for episode #3: 20th October – An Extinction Cabaret special!

 

 

Underland – a review

UNDERLAND: a Deep Time Journey – by Robert MacFarlane

a review by Kevan Manwaring

Underland Cover

This remarkable book, which MacFarlane has been working on for about a decade has now irrupted, like an underground river, into broad daylight – astonishing us with its force and volume of news from the underworld. Underland: a deep time journey is a speleological journey into some of the world’s most astonishing underground spaces and systems. It charts a katabasis through its triadic structure (First Chamber; Second Chamber; Third Chamber) – a mythically resonant dramatic arc of descent, testing, and return. A guide of impressive interdisciplinary erudition, insight, and humanity, MacFarlane undertakes a kind of hero’s journey – in Britain, Europe and the North – while clearly emphasising the knowledge, skill, daring, and down-to-earthness of his guides. Most of the chapters recount meetings with remarkable people in remarkable places, and thus deconstructs the notion of the sole, male explorer striking Caspar David Friedrich type hero poses on lonely crags, or above fathomless abysses. This is a book about relationships, complex systems, interdependence, and consequences. Nothing is isolation. Everything is interconnected – mycorrhizzal networks of mutuality. The human is always present in nature and vice versa. MacFarlane parses the anthropocentric engagement with the underworld into three categories of usage – to shelter, yield, dispose:

The same three tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful.

The author explores iterations of these in some familiar and obscure places – from the Mendip Hills in Somerset, to the catacombs of Paris, the war-torn karst landscape of the Adriatic coastline, to the glacial fields of Greenland and the nuclear storage facilities of Finland. These extraordinary vertiginous deep-dives are framed by a fictionalised opening which serves as our own access point – a kind of fictive portal – into the subterranean.  The literary and mythical haunt the scientific, geographical, and historical layers throughout – although MacFarlane does not make heavy weather of the intertextuality, being a sharp-eyed and cool observer. Not that his prose is cold, technical, or sterile. He brings alive each experience in a gripping, visceral way. Some sections are overwhelmingly intense and claustrophobic. This travel/nature-writing/memoir/cultural history is as riveting as any well-written thriller. At times it evokes the Sublime of the Romantic, John Martin’s apocalyptic vistas, and Tolkien’s Mines of Moria; at other times it conveys a chilling science-fictional aesthetic. The book is uncompromising in its clear-eyed assessment of the Anthropocene, of humankind’s unquestionable impact upon the planetary ecosystem and geological record. This is a book every Climate Change denialist should read. Yet it goes beyond a kind of literary activism to appeal to the most humanistic instincts – of caring for one’s children, grandchildren and future generations, about being deeply aware of the legacies we leave behind. It is a sobering time-capsule, a message in a bottle from the future – like the teleological warning on the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico, designed to communicate the extreme biohazard of the nuclear waste stored there in a 100,000 years time:

We are going to tell you what lies underground, why you should not disturb this place, and what may happen if you do.

This could be the premise of the book, although it is more than just a series of cautionary tales. It is imbued with profound wonder, appreciation, and praise-singing for the natural world, for human courage, and ingenuity. MacFarlane returns into the light with tales to set your hairs on end, but also with a sense of hope – a hand held out in friendship, in aid, in love across generations, across time.

 

Published by Hamish Hamilton, 2 May 2019

NB this is an extract. The full version of this review is to be published in TEXT: the journal of writing and writing courses in the Autumn. http://www.textjournal.com.au/