Immerse yourself in the stories of Ulverton, as heard on BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime
'Sometimes you forget that it is a novel, and believe for a moment that you are really hearing the voice of the dead' Hilary Mantel
At the heart of this novel lies the fictional village of Ulverton. It is the fixed point in a book that spans three hundred years. Different voices tell the story of Ulverton: one of Cromwell's soldiers staggers home to find his wife remarried and promptly disappears, an eighteenth century farmer carries on an affair with a maid under his wife's nose, a mother writes letters to her imprisoned son, a 1980s real estate company discover a soldier's skeleton, dated to the time of Cromwell...
Told through diaries, sermons, letters, drunken pub conversations and film scripts, this is a masterful novel that reconstructs the unrecorded history of England.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION FROM ROBERT MACFARLANE
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.