From the author of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers
The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller
Longlisted for the Booker Prize
'Startling, moving and overwhelming . . . Wonderful.' Daily Telegraph
'A devastating, disquieting and exhilarating book.' Psychologies
'Books this good don't come along very often.' Maggie O'Farrell
'Stunning and deeply affecting.' Nathan Filer
'A magically beguiling work, a triumph.' Financial Times
'A thing of total joy . . . thrums with rhythm and life.' Observer
'A remarkable feat of literary virtuosity.' Sunday Times
Not far from London, there is a village.
This village belongs to the people who live in it and to those who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England's mysterious past and its confounding present.
It belongs to families dead for generations, and to those who have only recently moved here, such as the boy Lanny, and his mum and dad.
But it also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort, who has woken from his slumber in the woods. Dead Papa Toothwort, who is listening to them all.
In his bold second novel, Porter (Grief Is the Thing with Feathers) combines pastoral, satire, and fable in the entrancing tale of a boy who vanishes from an idyllic British village in the present day. Lanny is an elfin, perpetually singing child "more obviously made of the same atoms as the earth than most people these days seem to be." He is a mystery to his parents, recent transplants to the picturesque, increasingly fashionable (and expensive) town: the mother is a former actress working on a gruesome novel, and the father's a yuppie commuting to London. Lanny's somewhat cloying eccentricity ("Which do you think is more patient, an idea or a hope?") captivates a reclusive artist, "Mad Pete," who gives him drawing lessons, and enchants Dead Papa Toothwort, the town's ancient and resilient presiding spirit: " build new homes, cutting into his belt, and he pops up adapted, to scare and define." Toothwort is a mischievous, Green Man esque deity who prowls the village "chew the noise of the place" and especially enjoys feasting on Lanny's song. When Lanny goes missing, the suspicion falls on Mad Pete, and the resulting media blitz turns the village into a "hideous ecosystem of voyeurism," exposing its rifts and class resentments. In the novel's satisfying conclusion, Toothwort stages a hallucinatory play that reveals Lanny's fate. This is a dark and thrilling excavation into a community's legend-packed soil.
A most unusual story. Definitely not for everyone. It covers a lot of territory in a short space and is beautifully written. Nature, social ethics, coming of age and fantasy all converge.
The author’s bio reveals that he lives in South London with his family and works in publishing. Cleary, he values his privacy too. His debut Grief Is A Thing With Feathers (2015) is best described as experimental fiction, but it was accessible enough that at least one curmudgeonly old reader stuck with it to the end, chiefly because of the quality of the prose.
I like to think I understood what the author was getting at too—tell him he’s dreamin’—and made a note to keep an eye out for his next book.
Ostensibly, Lanny is about a young family living in a small English village in the commuter belt of London.
Dad takes the train to the city each day and does God-knows-what. Mum stays home and works on her a detective novel. Their only child Lanny is a bit strange, but full of optimism and delightful ideas. After he starts drawing lessons with Pete, a washed up local artist, both teacher and pupil soar.
Oh, there’s a possibly mythical local called Dead Papa Toothwort lurking around too.
The narrative cycles quickly between the various characters and moves along at quite a pace. Extremely wide lateral page margins make the text resemble an epic poem, which it is in a way. Mr Porter’s gift for language is extraordinary.
Dead Papa Toothwort’s sections feature text that bends and curls on the page. Is he real or is he a creation of Lanny’s rich imagination?
I dipped into this expecting to cast it aside quickly, and ended up reading it straight through without a break.
It's an immersive experience that was immensely enjoyable even if it is difficult to say exactly why.
If you liked Lincoln In The Bardo, you’ll like this. Even if you didn’t, read it because it’s better.
6 stars, possibly 7
Another lost child book.
How many do we need.