Book - 2019
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There is a village outside London, no different from many others. Everyday lives conjure a tapestry of fabulism and domesticity. This village belongs to the people who live in it and to the people who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England's mysterious past and its confounding present. But it also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort who has woken from his slumber and is listening, and watching. He is watching Mad Pete the village artist. He is listening to ancient Peggy gossiping at her gate, to families recently moved here and to families dead for generations. Dead Papa Toothwort hears them all as he searches, intently, for his favourite. Looking for the boy. Lanny.
Publisher: London : Strange Light, ©2019.
ISBN: 9780771073625
Characteristics: 213 pages ;,21 cm.


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CALS_Lee Apr 24, 2020

I along with many readers loved Porter's unique debut, Grief is the Thing With Feathers, which used the mythological crow figure and a prose-poetry style to tell the emotional struggle of two children and their father after the sudden death of their mother/spouse.

Porter's style here is much the same, a storytelling mode that blends prose and poetry. This blend is more balanced in the first part of the book, where Porter includes phrases of text (snippets of conversation said to be being spoken in the story's village) arranged visually like a modernist poem might be. The prose meanwhile takes a stronger hand in the latter part of the book.

Similarly also we have a mythological being brought to life at the center of the story, pulling many of the strings. Here though the character, Dead Papa Toothwort, is considerably more difficult to understand and get a grip on than Crow was. Dead Papa Toothwort is something out of the dark and primitive woods, rural and uncivilized, strange and unfamiliar, triggering humanity's fears and anxieties. He's something out of England's pagan past, with uncertain motives.

The story also centers again on children, this time just one really. Lanny is an only child, and has an eerie connection to nature. The village, and sometimes his parents, are unnerved by him; he's considered a weirdo, "off with the fairies". In part 2 of the book, he disappears, and at that point the book gets a touch more conventional, showing "what really happens" in the minds of people when a child goes missing and suspicion and emotions run high. The story finally takes a wild swerve in part 3, with a set piece that reminds me of something out of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, before resolving the storyline.

Feb 10, 2020

This is an astonishing piece of work.

AndreaG_KCMO Feb 04, 2020

I haven't read many lyrical works of fiction and am usually attracted to simple language. In this case, I think prose would have been insufficient to create the layered reality of Porter's English village and the phantasmagoric quality of the story. Whimsical, grotesque, unpredictable--all these words and more apply.

Dec 04, 2019



An amazing mythological account of an old man and a young boy, interspersed with human values and feelings!



Nov 11, 2019

I love when a book forces me to slow down and slowly absorb the story. This unusual little book is odd but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of figuring it out.

smc_1 Sep 23, 2019

One of my fave books of the year! A 'hold your breath' kind of book because of the gorgeous language and tone. If you liked Lincoln in the Bardo, you'll love this!

Sep 19, 2019

booker 2019 longlist

Aug 31, 2019

Unusual in form - a mix of "typical" narrative & wild poetics - this is really good. I read it in one big gulp! I loved Porter's previous novel "Grief is the Thing with Feathers", but this novel is even better. I look forward to Mr. Porter's next work, while I continue to think about how he reeled me in so quickly & firmly with this story.

Jul 29, 2019

I hate the trope of the mystical child and yet, there's a seemingly mystical child. I hate relationship books but it's a little of that. Somehow none of that matters.
It won't be for everyone, but for those who love language, poetry, and complexity hidden within simplicity, it's great fiction.
Ignore everything and just read it in one go.

debwalker Jul 26, 2019

Booker nominee. Mystical take on the English village scene.

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