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A Novel of Short StoriesAdam Thorpe s first novel Ulverton comprises twelve chapters Each of these chapters is a short story set in the fictional English town of Ulverton Ordered chronologically these stories span the last three and a half centuries of English history It is the common factors of geographical location and shared historical events that bind the short stories, written in a variety of styles and expressed through a cross section of society s viewpoints, into a novel We are first introduced to Ulverton through the viewpoint of a local farmer He narrates the consequences of a neighbouring farmer s unexpected return from fighting for Cromwell in the English Civil War This chapter is written in the first person It sets up a local legend Anne Cobbold the witch that other characters in subsequent chapters refer to This and other events establish a continuity of history throughout the book.Next we have the Vicar s story set thirty nine years later On the walk home to Ulverton from a funeral in a neighbouring village the narrator and his party are overtaken by a snowstorm The vicar narrates from the pulpit his version of the events that have been the subject of gossip in the community.It is early in the eighteenth century when we return to a farmer s point of view in chapter three Our narrator is concerned with improvements in husbandry and the continuation of his family name and he records his endeavours upon these topics in journal form The fourth and fifth stories are written in epistolary form A series of letters from a literate lady in confinement contrasts with the letters, of erratic spelling, written by the tailor for a favour, from a peasant mother to her wayward son.Early in the nineteenth century, looking back on his days as an apprentice carpenter, our narrator for the sixth tale relates in the first person the story of a practical joke upon his pious boss This incident took place at the time of the previous chapter and is alluded to in one of the letters there.The industrial revolution provides the historical backdrop for the next era of Ulverton s history The courtroom depositions of members of the community show the troubles of the time as Luddites try to halt the march of progress these are interspersed with sections from the solicitor s letters to his fianc.Chapter eight is presented as the written notes to accompany a series of photographic plates The pictures not included are being shown as a slide show and the photographer s commentary covers images of Ulverton and an archaeological expedition to Egypt.The ninth chapter is Thorpe s personal favourite story in the novel because it empowers a normally marginalized section of society and makes the reader work to understand it Thorpe said I don t see much point in writing a novel unless the reader works Written in thick dialect as a peasant s stream of consciousness the language is difficult, and a second reading may be necessary to capture the full gist of his story.As the world is beginning the Great War in 1914, we see Ulverton from the viewpoint of a retired colonial servant recently returned from India after the death of his wife The first draft of this story appeared in New Writing I as a self contained short story The narrator is remembering the atmosphere of the period from a safe distance in 1928.The diary and some other papers of a famous cartoonist s secretary bring the reader to Ulverton at the time of Queen Elizabeth II s coronation The cartoonist is planning to bury some artefacts and his own writing for posterity on the same day as the new monarch is crowned The final chapter of this novel of short stories is set in 1988 and is written in another new form It is the script of a documentary about a property developer s plans for Ulverton His encounters with the Ulverton Preservation Society bring him into contact with one Adam Thorpe giving the author a cameo role in his own novel Ulverton won Adam Thorpe the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize when it was published in 1992 An extract from the novel was used by The Council for the Protection of Rural England in their publicity material promoting conservationism It is a novel concerned primarily with location, the town of Ulverton itself is the novels main character Using a variety of literary techniques Thorpe has created a fictional place that encapsulates the broad sweep of modern history across the English countryside creating a novel form of novel in the process This book is an interesting read and provides inspiration for short story writers looking to move up in length to writing novels. I liked the idea of this book a collection of stories all based in the same English village hamlet starting around the 13th century and moving chronologically to around the present day The form of the stories and gender of the narrators varied, which made it interesting and challenging However, I just couldn t get to grips with the stories written in dialect, and have to own up to skipping them When this is good it s very good, when it s bad it s unreadable, literally if you re reading it on a kindle as the last chapter is in tiny, tiny print and I couldn t adjust it Also some chapters are written in very heavy dialect and frankly I just skipped those chapters with a feeling that life is too short, what a waste of money, should have borrowed it from the library, oh well, Marion, persevere and all that.you get the drift or rather you don t, mostly, all those leads.and on it goes like this, a parody, a spot of self indulgence, oh come, Mr Thorpe, Adam, really, I mean, really An experiment, perhaps, happens as maybe Loved some of it, very clever, wonderful, but also very put downable So, what s next.despair, despair, despair. I love, love, love this book The village of Ulverton is visited across centuries as the reader hears the stories of various of its inhabitants At first these stories seem random, but as is learned is understood, and they all weave in together to form a whole the history and meaning of the village through its heterogeneous people.There is something of Alan Garner s writing about it, it has a similar obsession with place his is Alderley Edge , and as far as I am concerned that can only be a good thing. Did not make it past page 160 The story could not hold my attention This only happens to me once every few years, but so many books, so little time.. Loved the concept of each chapter following on from earlier periods in the life of an English village Some of the chapters are great But others are nearly unreadable Seems an academic writing exercise than a great novel Life s too short .READ BOOK ⚕ Ulverton ♍ 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 S Real Estate Company Discover A Soldier S Skeleton, Dated To The Time Of CromellTold Through Diaries, Sermons, Letters, Drunken Pub Conversations And Film Scripts This Is A Masterful Novel That Reconstructs The Unrecorded History Of England The cover blurb has a Sunday Times reviewer declaring this A masterpiece and it probably is It is a powerful exercise in the taking on of different voices, without a doubt with each change of era, there is a different narrative point of view, and they are all indeed quite distinct but to my slightly low brow tastes it is wanting in the area of plot Stuff happens, yes, and there is a nice little quiver in the reader s bosom when events from earlier in the book are referred to later, frequently in a distorted form as if authentically passed along by word of mouth, but none of it really has any bearing on what follows This combined with an occasionally painful patch of phonetic dialogue the end of the 1800s is marked by twenty eight pages of picturesque rural gibberish with but a single period for punctuation makes it something of an up hill climb for the reader It is an impressive exercise, but I m not sure it s an enriching one.As I say, I m slightly low brow in my expectations One might point out that there is a good depiction of the futility of human ambition, of the ephemerality of human works, and of the paradox of progress things get worse because things get better , and that s all true If that s the sort of thing that you re looking for in a book, and you don t mind the substitution for plot by slices of life, you ll rate this book higher than I What stars I ve given it are mainly for the workmanship the different voices also give an impression of authenticity to each era, and I do appreciate that. Sadly, despite having looked forward to reading this one I had to give up on it For those that know me well, they know that I don t give up on books easily and it did take a while to come to this decision.I started the book on the 8th May and by 17th May, I d only managed to read around a 135 pages It was as if reading it was a chore and reading should never be a chore in my opinion When I was in the mood to read or had the time, it wasn t the first book that I picked up and when I did pick it up, it was with some reluctance.It s not that it was badly written as it was far from that I found it well written but it didn t grab me I m not a huge fan of short stories and this was basically a series of short stories set over several centuries featuring one fictitious village know as Ulverton, which did have certain variations on the name.Based on what I read I gave it a 2 10 If I d got on with it better this would have been. Loved this It s impressive simply in terms of sheer narrative skill Each chapter is distinct in form and voice, moving from 1650 to 1988, including short story, stream of consciousness, diary entries, epistolary fiction, courtroom depositions, descriptions and annotations for a supposed book of photographs, a transcript for a television documentary Names and stories weave in and out of individual chapters, with every chapter forcing the reader to rethink earlier stories and implications And through it all a shifting, wonderfully complex sense of the relationships between place and time, present and history A masterclass in narrative technique and control of form.