As an antidote to the dull, formulaic novel I gave up on yesterday, I’d like to say a few words about Harriet Goodchild’s new book, ‘The Crooked Path’, a beautiful example of the kind of writing I wish I could master.
A new story from Harriet Goodchild is guaranteed to be a joy to read. ‘The Crooked Path’ is high fantasy, if myths and fairy tales and folklore count as high fantasy. The world will be familiar to anyone who has read ‘After the Ruin’, or to anyone who knows Scotland. Because the colours and the atmosphere are north country folk tale, highlands and islands with a touch of sea wolves on the horizon. The Crooked Path is a love story, a triangular love story between two beings who are not quite human but very much of the world of the story, and a humble, heroic potter.
The story is pure magic, danced across a vivid canvas. It’s rare I can see a place in such clear, strong colours as Goodchild’s world. The mountains are purple, the sky blue, the gorse yellow, the sky black set with brilliants. Even the roses are red or white, never pink. There are no pastel shade, no half tints. The sun is high and flaming gold at midsummer or the world is black and white at mid winter. Yet there is no long, florid phrasing in this writing; Goodchild paints this glorious canvas with an astonishing economy of words.
The hero is the potter, and the reader is free to like or dislike all of the other far more lordly, rich and important characters. Possibly one of the most likeable aspects of folk tales is turning the established order on its head as surely as magic can turn the commonplace into treasure. There’s no point going into the details of the plot which builds up, brush stroke by brush stroke, adding details and depth as the journey proceeds until the sunburst of a conclusion when the whole painting is revealed. You will love this story if you love the magic of folk tales that contain in a familiar setting a world that is so very different to the one we know.
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