Fans of Gardam’s Old Filth trilogy will be pleased to discover this book of linked stories, first published in 1981. The collection follows the friendship of Harry Bateman and Bell Teasdale and their mischievous adventures in the Cumbrian countryside—or what Bell’s grandfather calls “the hollow land.” Harry, the son of a writer, is a Londoner who spends summers in a farmhouse that belongs to Bell’s family. The duo gets trapped in an abandoned silver mine, nearly freeze to death chasing icicles in a blinding snowstorm, and encounter characters such as Granny Crank, aka the Egg Witch and, later, a long-absent uncle who returns to claim the house Harry rents. Gardam has created an engaging rural landscape with its own dialect, ghosts, and legends. “The evening,” she writes, “gentle with warmth of the long day, smelled of gorse and wild thyme and a hundred miles of clean turf.” Yet it is not so much the sense of place but rather the shared experiences of one country boy and one city chap that connect the stories. Like Mark Twain’s depictions of youth, Gardam demonstrates that the enduring lessons of boyhood and lifelong friendship can delight readers of any age. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/24/2014 Release date: 01/06/2015 Genre: Fiction
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