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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Gently challenging

I like Tim Pears' books. He has a very easy, engaging style  but every now and then comes a sentence, or an event, which makes you take a metaphorical step back. He seems to me to be a sort of literary seducer, insinuating himself into your defences and, before you know it, establishing a new idea in your mind. I have just re-read "Disputed Land" which is really simply an account of three generations of a family getting together at Christmas but, along the way, we get sentences like: "Those who live a quiet life ... capable of making an accommodation with the fugitive nature of love and the ephemeral fact of this fleeting existence; such individuals do little harm." To my mind this is not just an elegant, almost poetical, sentence, it says something fundamental about human nature. Also: "To be aloof from ones own life: what a sentence." What a sentence indeed!

The "Disputed Land" of the title refers to the welsh border area in west Shropshire where the novel is set but in fact this is a metaphor for family power struggles over generations revealed, if ever so subtly, during a Christmas gathering. I think the message, at least in part, may be that the most apparently powerful may not in fact have the stamina and endurance to win in the end. As my mother used often to say, "It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for".

There is an interesting little plot twist at the end when we hear that Theo (the hero) has been burning the books he inherited from his grandfather for warmth. It turns out that the novel is narrated by Theo from some time in the future when profligate use of the world's resources have evidently undermined his comfortable way of life - an outcome predicted at the Christmas gathering by his dying grandmother.

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