NOW AVAILABLE This will be the first time Bruce Chatwin s first novel has been published in e format, making it available for e tablet readers This edition also contains an illustrated biography of Bruce Chatwin, including rare images and never before seen documents from the author s estate He never thought of abroad He wanted to live with Lewis for ever and ever to eat the same food wear the same clothes share a bed and swing an axe in the same trajectory There were four gates leading into The Vision and, for him, they were the Four Gates of Paradise Identical twins Lewis and Benjamin Jones have shared most of their days of their lives together since they were born They live in a house together, sleep in their parent s old bed together, work the farm together Their lives are interdependent than most married couples, each one completely dependent upon the other The trials they ve endured in their lives have changed each of them in different ways, they are no longer the mirror images of the other, inside and out Because they knew each other s thoughts, they even quarreled without speaking Benjamin is the softer, gentler one, he cooks, and he loves delivering the baby lambs Lewis is physically stronger, but a dreamer of other lands Their mother factors heavily in their memories as they go through their days, through their lives Their father factors in, not as heavily in their hearts, perhaps, but in the storytelling Beginning with their father s youth through their entire lives, this little book covers a rather extensive period of history Set in rural Wales, in a tiny little spot on the map, Chatwin is at his best when describing the landscapes and other cultures The twins rarely leave their farm, and the town is much like you d expect from any small town where the people rarely change, living is routine and never easy These residents not only can t imagine living anywhere else, they are comfortable in their routines Knowing the quirks and annoying behaviors of each resident they feel protected by that knowledge Most Radnorshire farmers knew chapter and verse of the Bible, preferring the Old Testament to the New, because in the Old Testament there were many stories about sheep farming While reading this, I sometimes felt torn between the occasionally lovely prose, the quirky charm of the characters, and the overall bleakness of the setting as it often crossed that line into bleak and depressing I recommend this book with that caution.
Pub Date 18 Oct 2016Many thanks to Open Road Integrated Media, and to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reading and review.
This one blew me away So simple so complex So small so big I finished it a week ago, but I ve been holding off on reviewing it until I could find the right words I still haven t Until I do, I ll just leave these stars here and tell you this is one is pure gold.
A warm hearted and somewhat bleak tale of identical twin brothers, Benjamin and Lewis, living out their lives together on a rural farm on the border of Wales and England The initial scenes of their comfortable routines in their 80 s are followed by a step back to the origin of their lives soon after the marriage of their parents at the end of the 19th century They settle into the life of tenant sheep farmers, fixing up an old farmhouse they call The Vision close by the beautiful Black Hill.
We get a vision of an idyllic life for the twins growing up on this farm, which they would almost never leave Lewis is physical and likes girls Benjamin was sensitive and spiritual, loves to tend to the lambs and wants only to be with Lewis forever The light would literally go out of his eyes when separated from Lewis They are almost separated when Lewis falls for a local girl and when Benjamin gets drafted for the Great War, but fate seems to intercede Their father, before he dies, works out a way to purchase the farm With Lewis brawn and Benjamin s talent for business, they make a go of keeping their little paradise going despite any upheavals in the distant world After their mother dies, they keep everything in the house the same Their main concession to changing times is to adopt a tractor for plowing Thus the tale is a bit of a fairy tale of resilience to change and keeping family bonds alive and the life of a place called home forever I was moved by the little dramas in their life and that of villagers in their community I mentally place this book among other admired stories that I consider biography of place I loved Chatwin s effortless capturing of the rhythms of nature at the farm, as here reflected in the senses of the twins mother Mary The winter was hard From January to April the snow never melted off the hill and the frozen leaves of foxgloves drooped like dead donkeys ears Every morning she peered from the bedroom window to see if the larches were black or crisped with rime The animals were silent in the deep cold, and the chatter of the sewing machine could be heard as far as the lambing paddock.
I loved the subtle humor bordering on satire about class relations For example, Mrs Bickerton was a frail fair skinned woman in her later thirties As a girl, she had devoted herself to painting, and had lived in Florence Then, when her talent seemed to desert her, she married a handsome but brainless cavalry officer, possibly for his collection of Old Masters, possibly to annoy her artist friends I like the Welsh, Mrs, Bickerton went on But they do seem to get so angry, later It must be to do with the climate The twin s father Amos does harbor a temper bottled up inside his inarticulate self At first, he kept in check, along with his tender feelings He treated her as a fragile object that had come by chance into his possession and might easily break in his hands He was terrified of hurting her, or letting his hot blood carry him away The sight of her whalebone corset was enough to unman him completely.
But Mary s attempts at creativity and cooking based on her readings did not fare well For his constipation, she began to plan for some healthy vegetables in the garden But when she suggested planting an asparagus bed, he flew into a towering rage Who did she think she was Did she think she d married into the gentry The crisis came when she experimented with a mild Indian curry He took one mouthful and spat it out I want none of your filthy Indian food, he snarled, and smashed the serving dish on the floor.
Almost all my friends on Goodreads rate this book higher But my B rating is relative to the wonderful books on rural life and coming of age that I have sought out, driven in part by my origins from a place in Oklahoma where our nearest neighbor was a mile away Among these other reads I am most attracted to ones that capture the necessary personal transformations or the surpassing of hardships that make one capable of dealing with the larger adult world Just as with a rare book on utopia, a tale devoted to preservation of the good life hooks me less than ones where the character must deal with a dystopian society or a dysfunctional family through a pathway of tough moral choices An example of such a book for me is McMurtry s The Last Picture Show The nostalgia aspects of this book are close to that of My Antonia and Jayber Crow , but the former excels for me by incorporating personal change and the latter by capturing the vitality of a community The closest in plot is Haruf s Plainsong , which also features a pair of bachelor farmer brothers, but their taking in a pregnant teenager opens the door to substantial change in their lives.
This book was provided by the publisher as an e book through the Netgalley program.