Treacle Walker by Alan Garner - review by Felix Taylor

Felix Taylor

Like a Rolling Stone

Treacle Walker


Fourth Estate 152pp £10

Alan Garner is best known for the fantasy novels he wrote in the 1960s, which drew on the oral traditions and enchanted landscapes of the Cheshire village of Alderley Edge. These have made him a much-loved and respected voice in modern literature. His first novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, lodged itself strangely in the minds of the children who read it, and although Garner has since dismissed it as a ‘bad book’, it introduced themes that have never left his line of sight. Those themes are most noticeable in his last two books: Boneland, the third of the Weirdstone trilogy, published fifty years after the first, and Where Shall We Run To?, a memoir of growing up in Alderley Edge during the Second World War. Garner often speaks about the alienation he felt after his grammar school education severed him from his family roots and how his writing is a way of knitting himself back together. His world is charged with magic and coloured by both Jungian thought and British prehistory. In Treacle Walker, Garner, now eighty-seven, continues to give expression to a lifelong obsession with myth and its curative effects. Here, his vision is slimmed down to a sparse yet masterful 150 pages: this is a mesmerising folktale where every word counts.

The immediate inspiration for the novel came through conversations between Garner and the scientist Bob Cywinski about the nature of time and a historical figure known as Treacle Walker, a Huddersfield tramp who could heal ‘all things; save jealousy’. In Garner’s book, the tramp arrives at the house of

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