The Villager

Tom Cox
There’s so much to know. It will never end, I suspect, even when it does. So much in all these lives, so many stories, even in this small place. Villages are full of tales: some are forgotten while others become a part of local folklore. But the fortunes of one West Country village are watched over and irreversibly etched into its history as an omniscient, somewhat crabby, presence keeps track of village life. In the late sixties a Californian musician blows through Underhill where he writes a set of haunting folk songs that will earn him a group of obsessive fans and a cult following. Two decades later, a couple of teenagers disturb a body on the local golf course. In 2019, a pair of lodgers discover a one-eyed rag doll hidden in the walls of their crumbling and neglected home. Connections are forged and broken across generations, but only the landscape itself can link them together. A landscape threatened by property development and superfast train corridors and speckled by the pylons whose feet have been buried across the moor.

It's only June, yet I've found the book of the year. Was really excited to hear that Tom Cox had written his first novel. After reading Help the Witch during lockdown, I was left wanting more. I wasn't disappointed to find this book weaves the wonderful storytelling craft of Tom Cox into a longer, absorbing read. So happy was I to pick it up from the bookshop that it bypassed the TBR queue and found its way straight to my hands. I wasn't disappointed. It's everything I hoped for and more. Wonderful descriptive prose that draws you into the world of Underhill, a tiny village in Devon.

It's a story told from many view points. In essence, multiple stories which come together to weave a tale. Little touches scatter themselves across multiple stories, all tying this together into one complete novel. One constant is the American musician RJ McKendree, who dallied in the area for such a short while, yet left an aura around the village. His album Wallflower has a profound effect on many of the residents of the village.

Given my love for 60/70s folk rock, the story really connected with me. The little stories all combining to tell the tale of his cult following. The writing is nothing short of magnificent. The words so descriptive, each layer built up to make a truly wonderful work. Rather like life in Underhill, it's not to be rushed. It's meant to be savoured and enjoyed.

This is my book of the year. A story so good, I'll be going back to re-read before the year is out. A five star read.

Review by Brompton Sawdon
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Brompton Sawdon - Author

Brompton loves books and is always willing to give a viewpoint on books that have been exciting or disappointing.

From the top of a tower, somewhere in the Pennine Hills, Brompton views the world though world weary eyes. Occasionally ranting or raving over something that may seem irrelevant to you but matters to Brompton.

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