Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Sacred Combe by Thomas Maloney


This book was published in Hardcover RRP £14.99 and E-Book on 12th May 2016 by Scribe UK. I read my copy on The Pigeonhole, which given I am not an e book reader was something of a new experience for me. It is an interactive, serialised, online experience which I found fitted well with having something to read at lunchtimes.

A man's eye is accommodative, like his heart.'
Samuel Browne's wife has left him suddenly after three years of marriage. She invites him to 'go and live a better life without me'. He must start again, and alone.
And so it is that Sam finds himself deep in the English countryside in a cold but characterful old house, remote and encircled by hills, in the employment and company of an older, wiser man, a man as fond of mystery as he is of enlightenment. What is the purpose of the seemingly hopeless task set for Sam in the house's ancient library? What is the secret of the unused room? And where does a life lose its way or gain its meaning?
The combe is home to a truth born of fraud, a building made of light, and a family wrecked by recklessness: loss and love reverberate around the house and around the novel, providing pleasure, pain and purpose. Combe Hall is a house designed to honour and to enthral. And this very fine debut novel does exactly the same.
My Thoughts:

This is a story that leaves much to the imagination but nevertheless manages to provide a fully immersive narrative. I found it utterly absorbing and was mesmerised by the riveting and lyrical prose. For me this book is a celebration of the written word, it is a celebration of books, libraries and in many instances I found it to be a philosophical take on life and death and the stamp that we can make and should make on the world around us.

Sam Browne's life has taken a turn for the unexpected. Everything he has thought he had planned out falls by the wayside and he grows the courage to go on a journey and dare to dream of something different. It is here that he goes to work for Arnold Comberbache and they form an unlikely alliance in their search for a mystery letter and answers to secrets that have been carried for years and years.

There is a Gothic feel to the house of our story, but by god I want to live there. Full of mystery, intrigue and the best bit - thousands and thousands of books. This book is packed full of little snippets of puzzle like information and references to many great revered texts and pieces of art. I have to make an omission here and say that I didn't seem to pick out texts like many others did - I have never been much of a reader of the classics. I do want to point out that this in no way spoiled the flow of the story or my interpretation of this great book. 

This book reminds me of the fact that writing is an art much like the paintings that hang on the walls in the ancient library, it has the power to survive all of us and goes beyond just our existence. I love the fact that even the cover is like a picture frame.

This is a story for me of crossroads, a story of reflection and about taking stock before moving forward with the next stage in life. It is OK to surround yourself in a cocoon but sometimes it will be the right time to move forward.

There were many times during this book that it felt very reflective and the author alluded to silence many times, this gave the story an almost meditative state. There is much discussion of nature and birds and the author clearly has an affinity for both. The passages about both of these things are for me when the book shone most. 

I found this book to be unusual, lyrical and a piece of literary fiction that I hope goes down in the archives as one to remember from this generation. Superb stuff. 



About the Author:

Thomas Maloney was born in Kent in 1979, grew up in London, and studied physics at university. He is a competent but unexceptional mountaineer and an astigmatic birdwatcher. He lives in Oxfordshire with his wife, daughter, and kayak.

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