Kirkus Star


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A freely written, powerfully told tale from British prize-winning author Crace (Continent, 1987)--at once a meditation on craft and fiction, art and order, the place of storytelling and the shape of society, and an immediate, captivating, resonant piece of storytelling itself. Growing up in a small village of stoneworkers near the sea, a young boy is maimed by passing horsemen, losing an arm and his utility to his community. The village, made up of artisans and merchants, wealthy and protected from the chaos around them, owes all to ""the gift of stones."" Their flint blades and tools are the finest available, and the status thus conferred makes them safe and fat and self-contented. Now useless, the boy takes to wandering out of the village and down the coast, following the sight of ships at sea, farther than any villager has gone before. Returning from his first foray, he spins a tale of his adventures, fascinating his listeners, and finding his calling. Shaping truth as others shape stone, he travels out again and again, each time bringing back the raw material from which he builds his tales. Then he brings back with him a homeless widow and her daughter, and, hectoring, makes the village take them in--a new element in the closed and orderly society. Soon thereafter, trade falls off, flints go unwanted, and when the widow is found dead, it is with a bronze arrowhead buried in her back. The villagers recognize the end of their world in the coming of bronze, and, led by the storyteller, set out in search of a future. A remarkable novel, timeless and wise.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1989
Publisher: Scribners