The Anarchist's Angel by Gareth Thompson
|The Anarchist's Angel by Gareth Thompson|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A summer of change for a lonely boy, bitter about a farm accident that scarred his face. Green politics, a first love affair and kitchen sink drama combine to form a tremendously satisfying novel.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: February 2009|
Samson Ashburner is an outsider. As a publican's son, he didn't fit in too well with the farming children at his school even before the dreadful accident five years ago that left his face horribly scarred. He still blames his mother for making him go to a birthday party at which he wasn't really wanted, and the taunts of his peers - "Here comes Red Stripe", "Red Stripe at night, shepherd's delight" - have shattered his confidence. Samson's mother wants him to go to catering college so that he can lend a hand in their ailing pub, but Samson has no intention of doing anything his mother wants, so he's purposely messed up his GCSEs.
Instead, he spends all his time in an old charcoal-burning hut in the nearby woods. It's the only place where he feels wanted or at peace. But the outside world won't stop intruding, and a new landowner threatens Samson's refuge, while a gypsy girl, Angel Obscura, shows him that not everyone looks only at the surface.
Green politics, a first love affair and kitchen sink drama combine in The Anarchist's Angel to form a tremendously satisfying novel. It's tense and exciting, but it's firmly rooted in a coming-of-age context in which Samson comes to see that his problems aren't as terrible as he'd believed - rather, they are a defence mechanism that's long past its sell-by date. Through Angel Obscura and his mother, he also finds an understanding that everyone has crises and that he is not the centre of the universe. It's a hard lesson, but one we must all learn.
The Cumbrian landscape is a vital part of the book, providing the narrative drive in Samson's urge to preserve it and a sympathetic background to his emotional state. People live and work there, and they must turn a profit, but incomers are ruthless - in particular Lord Standish, the villain of the piece. His brutish ignorance and drive for immediate profit contrast strongly with Samson's mother, who is struggling to make the pub work, but is doing her best to preserve and maintain rural life, using local produce to tempt trade.
I really enjoyed The Anarchist's Angel - it has all the ingredients: growing up, young love, contemporary issues. It's a page-turning read but it also gives plenty of pause for thought. It's very highly recommended by Bookbag.
My thanks to the nice people at Definitions for sending the book.
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