Books »Red Shift

by Alan Garner (1973)

A young troubled man in love in the 1970’s, the violent siege of a church during the English civil war, and a berserker and his fellow deserter soldiers during Roman times; the elements of Alan Garner‘s slim but substantial novel Red Shift are interesting even if I had a hard time getting a concrete grasp on them.

It’s a little like reading poetry… You’re thrust into conversations that can be vague and complex, using language and history forgotten and the narrative jumps from one story to another without warning. Rather than always “getting” everything that was on a page, I’d (sometimes after re-reading) get a resonating feeling of what was taking place instead.

It’s not a simple, easy read but it is rewarding. Symbolism is rarely this effective and the bitter, violent themes are haunting.

Jim got this for me after hearing about it on Gawker, so I had no idea what to expect–but even if I had read a summary, it wouldn’t have prepared me for the interesting use of language and ideas here.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about it until I’d finished, and even now it grows more interesting as I look back on it… it’s exciting to be surprised, challenged and rewarded by a book.

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Posted on January 19, 2012

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