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What better way to ignore a crisis on the PhD than to slide into a new book that, actually, has successfully executed some of the things I have been aiming for? I hurriedly and somewhat absent-mindedly picked it up in Waterstone's last week. I glanced at the front cover - liked the title, which conjured up outsiders and make do and menders - travellers - and the first line of the back cover synopsis. 'An old man lies dying'. The cover also sold it for me, of a solitary man walking into the distance in the snow; oh, and the fact that it proudly declared that it was the 'Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction'. I have to start, then, by declaring that it is a worthy winner; nay, more than that, I would go so far, in my opinion, and declare it a masterpiece. You see, when I like a book, I love a book and I've never been afraid of saying as much. There's also a coincidence for me in the fact that another of my favourite books is The Solitude of Thomas Cave, by Georgina Harding. No relation to this Harding, I don't think. It got me thinking about it - harding - hardy (another Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy) maybe it is because they convey a hardiness. The cover of Tinkers, which conveys solitude and having to go it alone, is right up my street - and in The Solitude of Thomas Cave, the main setting was the Arctic, where the character of the title lives in a whaling hut for a year as a bet, whilst he whiles away his slowly revealed grief. Tinkers, too, is a gradual revelation of grief, paradoxically, of this dying man - the grieving of a relationship with his father that he had been denied. The first line says it all: 'George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died'. What we are given is a snapshot of a paternal chain of unspoken grief. George is 'a methodical repairer of clocks'. It is a fitting analogy for playing out the wish fulfilment in relation to his father, Howard, an epileptic; George fixes the clocks - 'tinkers' with them - taking each apart and back together - in the same way as he wished he could have repaired his long absent father. It begins in New England, where life is hardy and self-sufficiency means ekeing out a living as a tinker - with his chest of drawers on Prince Edward the donkey - inside which is stored all manner of items. There is no real plot; it is a looking back, yet it avoids sentimentality. In fact the emotions are all the stronger - I would say profound - because of their absence. The prose does all the work here - each word has been lovingly considered by Harding, a former MFA student of Marilynne Robinson, who has in turn graced the cover with her encomium. I won't say any more about the book - I felt so moved by it that I shall return for a second reading - something which I hardly ever do, and which shall have to suffice as the best recommendation I can give.

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-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

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