For the Joy of Reading: The Many

This book is weird, but that is quite obviously what the author intended.   It is set in a fishing village, without any real indication of where it is.   The fact that one of the main characters is called Perran suggests that it must be Cornwall.   The use of the word emmet for an outsider also suggest Cornwall.   But the author never confirms this.   All we know is that it is a small fishing village that has seen better times, and the gloom of impending disaster hangs over the place.

As we quickly learn, there has already been one disaster.   A cottage has stood empty for ten years because its owner disappeared one night into the sea.   We do not know why.    All we know is that Ethan blames himself, but we do not know the reason.   Timothy has decided to move in and renovate the place, and for this he has his own reasons which we do not know.   The villagers are not happy with this, and view the incomer with suspicion.   It is a bit like moving into a downmarket version of Manderley in the village of “The Wicker Man”.

It is very obvious why Wyl Menmuir has created such a stir with this book.   This is a carefully constructed, beautifully written tale.   The interaction between Ethan and Timothy leads inexorably to disaster.   In that it is like a Greek tragedy.  Perran broods over the village like a vengeful god demanding sacrifice – a Celtic god like Llew Llaw Gyffes (and, for those unfamiliar with the story, which is most of you, I would recommend Alan Garner’s “The Owl Service” or Gwyneth Lewis’ “The Meat Tree”.)

It is that kind of story.   It is chilling.   It is a tale of sacrificial loss, written with a deftness of language that takes you to the gates of hell.   It is a story that deals with loss, with grief, with guilt, and with the need to do something that restores the balance of life.

I am not sure that you can call this book enjoyable.   It deals very much with the darker side of life, with things that are truly dreadful.   As a work of imagination, it is quite extraordinary.

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