Ulverton

Adam Thorpe, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $23 (390p) ISBN 978-0-374-28031-4
This first novel was warmly received in England, and it is easy to see why. It possesses many of the virtues of the traditional English novel--pride of place, respect for a winsome underclass and an overriding fascination with the language and wiles of the ruling elite--and at the same time radically subverts those virtues. Thorpe's ambitions are broad, and paradoxically so, since he has subjected himself to the narrow constraints of period style. No single family or dominant theme threads through the novel's 12 chapters; they are unified only in their recounting of events--or more accurately, their extended snatches of language--grounded in rural Ulverton, a fictional town in Thomas Hardy's Wessex. The opening scene depicts one of Cromwell's soldiers staggering home; the closer is a shooting script for a film about the failed purchase of land in Ulverton in 1988. In between we are treated to letters from a barely literate mother to her imprisoned son (said to date from 1775), a story, told in an alehouse, about a road accident (1803), an arch Victorian discussion of a collection of photographs, and more. Thorpe's attempt to portray a changing England solely through changing literary conventions is more than admirable. However, it is sometimes less than readable (`` 'tis the seed of wild clymatis, that is named bedwine here, it must grow & tangle these words ere long, or I puff it out again''). A post-modern novel if there ever was one, Ulverton is nevertheless a better idea than it is a book. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1993
Release date: 01/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 978-0-374-52394-7
Hardcover - 978-0-517-15788-6
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4481-3006-1
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-09-957344-9
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