Jonathan Heawood

  • The Rules of Perspective by Adam Thorpe
    Cape, 341 pp, £12.99, May 2005, ISBN 0 224 05187 3

Adam Thorpe’s first novel, Ulverton (1992), was set in a fictional downland village, and traced its history from 17th-century isolation to M4 dormitory town. Thorpe told the story of this small English utopia in a mixture of letters, diaries and interviews. Each of the 12 sections of the novel is written in a different idiom, and can be read as a short story. The first is the narrative of an illiterate shepherd in 1650, the last the transcript of a 1988 television documentary about plans to develop the village. Living people in one chapter have become memories by the next and ghosts in the third. An imaginative boy in 1650 has by 1712 hardened into an authoritative old man, whose stories of witchcraft are credulously believed. Those stories in turn become a nice bit of local colour for a visiting writer in the 1950s. A white horse, carved out of chalk on the hillside by an 18th-century clergyman, is viewed as ancient by amateur archaeologists in 1914. At each stage, a wedge has been driven between people and place, and Ulverton has been transformed into myth.

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