Based on the true story of William Buckley, a bricklayer, the novel begins in the rural Cheshire of the s as William and Het are making ready for the annual festival known as Shick Shack Day William has been chosen as the village s Shick Shack an ancient fertility figure, face blackened with charcoal and bedecked with boughs of oak and Het is to be his Teaser But when the local landowner discovers the celebration in the church, William is arrested and sentenced to transportation to New Holland As he is taken from the church, he vows to Het that he will return He endures the horrors of the Transport, and lands in the distant continent Determined to return to Het, William escapes the camp and walks for than a year in the unbearable heat, convinced that, if he keeps going North, he will reach China and then soon be back home Finally, starved and delirious, he collapses having crawled to the top of a hillock It is here, unconscious, on what is the burial mound of Murrangurk, a great hero of their People, that William is discovered by Aborigines, who believe that he is Murrangurk returned from the dead Over the next thirty two years, William becomes Murrangurk in reality the law giver and healer of the People, a highly initiated, powerful and holy man brought from the dead for a quest that only he can achieve When he does, at last, return to England, it is neither as William Buckley nor as Murrangurk, but as Strandloper And in a magnificent and redemptive climax, the Dreaming of the Aborigines and the ancient magic of England are fused as one


10 thoughts on “Strandloper

  1. Shomeret Shomeret says:

    I very much enjoyed Strandloper Other readers might have trouble with the dialects in this novel I was able to decipher them without much difficulty, but the author gives no explanations or assistance to readers Garner s radical divergence from history might disturb those who prefer their historical fiction to be closer to verifiable facts When historical figures are fictionalized, it s delightful when the result speaks to me on a personal level, and is congruent with my own values This is I very much enjoyed Strandloper Other readers might have trouble with the dialects in this novel I was able to decipher them without much difficulty, but the author gives no explanations or assistance to readers Garner s radical divergence from history might disturb those who prefer their historical fiction to be closer to verifiable facts When historical figures are fictionalized, it s delightful when the result speaks to me on a personal level, and is congruent with my own values This is a lovely fiction from my perspective It reminds me of all those very compelling Pagan martyr fictions about Hypatia of Alexandria It s too bad that the truth about Hypatia iscomplex I am someone who tends to research historical fiction when I m interested in the subject it covers So I proceeded to uncover the truth about William Buckley, the historical protagonist of Strandloper Please note that if you are searching for him on the internet, you should add Australia to your search terms to avoid being deluged with results related to the conservative pundit William F Buckley Even though Strandloper can t be considered historically accurate, it was an amazingly good story It also led me to learn a bitabout Australian history through the research I did on William Buckley after reading it I m glad I selected this book as my Australian read for the Around the World challenge For the complete review including discussion of the real William Buckley and historical resources about him, see the latest post on my new book blog at


  2. Althea Ann Althea Ann says:

    A short novel very loosely based on the experiences of William Buckley, a British man transported to Australia who lived among the Aborigines there It s an impressive piece of literature but the ways in which Garner s tale differs from the historical events is very illuminating of Garner s concerns.One of the main themes of the book is drawing a parallel between the primitive rituals and beliefs of the Aborigines and those of rural Britain this is done masterfully It s the sort of goal th A short novel very loosely based on the experiences of William Buckley, a British man transported to Australia who lived among the Aborigines there It s an impressive piece of literature but the ways in which Garner s tale differs from the historical events is very illuminating of Garner s concerns.One of the main themes of the book is drawing a parallel between the primitive rituals and beliefs of the Aborigines and those of rural Britain this is done masterfully It s the sort of goal that, described briefly, sounds doubtful but Garner describes individuals whose ignorance, from a modern perspective, is shocking but does so in a way that gives a sense of a deep and abiding respect for human dignity This theme of rural ignorance tempered with an ancient dignity is also found in Garner s novel, Thursbitch Does it reflect reality That s another question Garner is deeply interested in linguistics and the power of language In his tale, Buckley s crime is accepting lessons in reading and writing from a local aristocrat s son In truth, he was accused of receiving stolen goods, and was illiterate throughout his long life Garner is also a folklorist, specializing in the traditions of the British Isles The English village that he describes is suffused with pagan rituals, coexisting with Christianity The rhymes and language of these traditions, as well as the dialect of the villagers, is vivid the reader can practically hear the songs and the speech of the people This depiction s convincingness depends on showing a remote, isolated population Buckley is described as never having been 10 miles from the place of his birth History records that, on the contrary, he d been in the army, fought in the Netherlands, and was arrested in London.This is not to say that I appreciate any less a story which is in large part about the magic of words But Garner s wise fools are, in a way, as mythical as the folkloric legends he studies The bittersweet romance of the story, with Buckley being sustained by the token his sweetheart gave him, and his dream of returning home to his true love, is heartbreakingly effective The truth, of course, is that Buckley never returned to England nor was he ever so naive as to think that he would walk home through China But it makes a good tale and rings true, in the way that folk tales can often betrue than history


  3. Ade Bailey Ade Bailey says:

    Apart from reading some of Garner s books to classes of kids many decades ago, have not looked since Chance put it in my hand Wonderful at every level You have to be engaged andhearthe text Hear the words, the dialect, the music, the animality and sounds of a myriad nature You have to be alert to, to hear, an intense authorial voice that pulls together in what is a very short book vast sweeps of history and space You need to go down in the convicts quarters, follow the sea imagery, Apart from reading some of Garner s books to classes of kids many decades ago, have not looked since Chance put it in my hand Wonderful at every level You have to be engaged andhearthe text Hear the words, the dialect, the music, the animality and sounds of a myriad nature You have to be alert to, to hear, an intense authorial voice that pulls together in what is a very short book vast sweeps of history and space You need to go down in the convicts quarters, follow the sea imagery, the rivers and streams, the bushland and plains, verdancies and aridities, fire and growth Paganism and Christianity, time loaded and timelessness, the routine quotidian of human injustice and fun in causing pain, love, togetherness, aloneness It s a palimpsest You have to try to match the author, and be aware of it at every level


  4. Cooper Renner Cooper Renner says:

    Strandloper is a masterwork from one of the English language s most important writers After reading this one, readers are advised to go on to Thursbitch and the allegedly for young readers Owl Service, Stone Book Quartet and Red Shift Garner is farsignificant than our literati have yet realized.


  5. Robert Wechsler Robert Wechsler says:

    This may be the most baffling novel I ve ever read I don t know how to describe it, much less critique it I can certainly say that it is a singular reading experience, and for that I am greatly appreciative It is a book that requires, at least on the first reading, the surrender of one s faculties, especially one s critical faculties Not that it wouldn t be interesting to criticize, but it would get in the way of the experience This novel requires what Keats called negative capability My This may be the most baffling novel I ve ever read I don t know how to describe it, much less critique it I can certainly say that it is a singular reading experience, and for that I am greatly appreciative It is a book that requires, at least on the first reading, the surrender of one s faculties, especially one s critical faculties Not that it wouldn t be interesting to criticize, but it would get in the way of the experience This novel requires what Keats called negative capability My one Goodreads friend who has reviewed the book, Abailart, says one must remain alert to the book s qualities That s a good way of putting it Alert and accepting, letting oneself go with the flow, wherever the author takes you.I can t say I enjoyed reading the novel, but it is a special, valuable experience with many rewards, especially in its rhythms and language, from Cheshire dialect to Aboriginal spiritual language


  6. Jim Brennan Jim Brennan says:

    I don t know that I m impartial I m a couple of years or so younger than Garner, not a classicist, and I just remember him at school Old Mancunians will know what I mean I also saw him play Antony with Dudley Moore as Enobarbus Alderley Edge I don t know all that well I come from a little further down the Bollin valley I ve just read backwards The Voice that Thunders , with a good deal of unexpected emotion If you read it that way round, you may think you know a bit about St I don t know that I m impartial I m a couple of years or so younger than Garner, not a classicist, and I just remember him at school Old Mancunians will know what I mean I also saw him play Antony with Dudley Moore as Enobarbus Alderley Edge I don t know all that well I come from a little further down the Bollin valley I ve just read backwards The Voice that Thunders , with a good deal of unexpected emotion If you read it that way round, you may think you know a bit about Strandloper before you read it I ve only come to both books a quarter of a century late, and I ve just read the opening chapter of Strandloper for the first time I suppose, as a result, I did know a little beforehand But none of it blunted the power and the portent of the opening pages, or concealed their roots I m afraid Garner is the real thing So much so that the Nobel Prize for Literature would I hope will mean nothing to him The man who could write about that, as deftly and deeply as he did, has become the craftsman his ancestors were That is worth any number of Regius Professorships


  7. Anna Hepworth Anna Hepworth says:

    This books showcases Garner s fascination with language, with the incomprehensible, with the direct experience of mythology It is very dreamy in places, very difficult to pick reality from fantasy dream delirium It was fascinating reading, but I m not sure I enjoyed it.


  8. Ian Ian says:

    This was inspired by the real life story of William Buckley, a giant of a man between 6ft 5 inches and 6ft 7 inches, apparently and an ex soldier, who at the turn of the nineteenth century was transported to Australia for 14 years for carrying a bolt of cloth he maintained he had not known was stolen British justice the envy of the world, eh Shortly after arrival in what is now Australia, he learnt the penal colony was being moved to Van Diemen s Land Tasmania , and escaped He was ta This was inspired by the real life story of William Buckley, a giant of a man between 6ft 5 inches and 6ft 7 inches, apparently and an ex soldier, who at the turn of the nineteenth century was transported to Australia for 14 years for carrying a bolt of cloth he maintained he had not known was stolen British justice the envy of the world, eh Shortly after arrival in what is now Australia, he learnt the penal colony was being moved to Van Diemen s Land Tasmania , and escaped He was taken in by the Wathaurong People and spent thirty years living among them The protagonist of Strandloper also called William Buckley is transported for lopping the local squire s oaks, and sedition the latter based on a piece of paper, a tract , containing passages from the Bible, chosen by the squire s son, the semi literate Buckley had been using to practice his writing Buckley survives passage to Australia and, like his namesake, escapes and lives among one of the local peoples Strandloper is a disconcerting read There is no clear sense of time running through the narrative The dialogue is given in local dialect, and for the first section consists mostly of local nonsense words used in songs and pagan practices The end result is a short book, only 200 pages, which packs quite a punch I m reminded of Golding s Rites of Passage, although that may simply be because they share an historical period Yet now I think about it, both novels have an impressive immediacy, in Golding s case generated by the use of journal entries as the narrative and the fact Garner manages it using a relatively straightforward omniscient POV narrative is probably the greater achievement Previously, I had only read Garner s children books, and enjoyed them, and a Young Adult I found less satisfying But Strandloper is good, and persuades me to hunt downof his adult fiction


  9. Marc Cooper Marc Cooper says:

    You don t so much read Strandloper as immerse yourself in it and let it push and pull you about It s familiar Garner, right enough, with added metaphysical transcendency or a bit bonkers, if you prefer It s not a book you ll forget in a hurry.


  10. Vishvapani Vishvapani says:

    What a book a short shamanic epic that is utterly without pretension Garner s novels are almost all about one place his part of Cheshire and their scope comes from his exploration of what he calls in Boneland Deep Place a sense that the past is present, and that ancestors who once lived there are linked spiritually with those who live there now Strandloper finds a way to journey away from Cheshire through the story of William Buckley, seemingly a real person who lived in Cheshire at What a book a short shamanic epic that is utterly without pretension Garner s novels are almost all about one place his part of Cheshire and their scope comes from his exploration of what he calls in Boneland Deep Place a sense that the past is present, and that ancestors who once lived there are linked spiritually with those who live there now Strandloper finds a way to journey away from Cheshire through the story of William Buckley, seemingly a real person who lived in Cheshire at the end of the Eighteenth Century, was transported to Australia, escaped and lived with the native Australians, becoming a holy man Eventually, as white colonisation spreads across the continent, he returns home It s a simple enough story, and it s a short book, but Garner s writing is unique and his approach is unlike what you find in all but a few historical novels He has always been a master of brevity, of terse, Anglo Saxon diction and sometimes of dialect Here, that style lends itself to an impressionistic evocation of Buckley and his world that takes you not just into another time, but into another kind of consciousness He enters an alternative way of being by evoking a way of speaking, and by extension a way of thinking, that comes from the past Even as a Cheshire man, Buckley has a quasi shamanic sense of his environment and the forces at work around him Following his arrest, the transportation ship is a jumble of speech registers and dialects the journey, we sense, isn t just taking him to another continent The fulfilment comes when he is adopted by the aboriginal people, who recognise him as a Dreamer, someone capable of mastering the spirit world which is at the heart of their experience All this is conveyed in the symbolic language of shamanic consciousness Finally, he returns home, but remains attuned to the spirit world and finds its presence in Cheshire, where he continues his rituals, dreams and dances.The closest writer I know to Garner is Ted Hughes This is crow poetry become a novel