A nightmare from the liminal world between sanity and insanity, between language and silence.
Substantially shorter than the inaugural volume (The Wake, 2014) in a projected trilogy-cum–genealogical saga, Kingsnorth’s latest also seems more assured. In part, that’s because he writes in modern English rather than the Old English–ish tongue of the first book; in part it’s because the concerns will seem immediate to modern readers: the world is going to hell, and about the only sensible approach to living in it is to go mad. Edward Buckmaster is a hermit in the woodlands of western England; he’s tried the city and did not like it, so now he camps outdoors or inside a collapsing old barn. “On the high moor there are patterns and in my small mind there are patterns,” he reflects, “and my breath fogs on the windows here and when I leave a footprint in the yard it stays for weeks.” One pattern that Buckmaster sees is the inherent beastliness of the world: the lion hiding in the storm cloud, the serpent coiled in lightning. And literally: a hare with almost human eyes has been haunting him ever since he saw it under an ash tree, pausing as if to speak to him. Some other beast, Buckmaster fears, is descending upon him, and his special madness lies in trying to divine what it is: “Someone is waiting for me where the moor ends. I think there is much that I do not see.” As Buckmaster unhinges, Kingsnorth’s language becomes an onrushing torrent of words, long passages of internal monologue without much punctuation or capitalization: “the potato is disgusting my mouth is cracked and dry like glasspaper why did i eat a raw potato what a stupid thing to do.” The effect is one of compelling immediacy as Kingsnorth recounts what it is to live in a time and place that is crumbling at the edges.
A tour de force, reminiscent of the best of John Fowles and David Mitchell.