There have been a couple of recent reviews of Rob and Garry Kilworth’s award-winning novella ‘The Ragthorn’, which was published in September.
The Guardian had this to say:
The novella recounts Dr Alexander’s quest to trace the legend of the mythical ragthorn tree. In the 1880s his great uncle, scholar and archaeologist William Alexander, brought an ancient stone from Egypt to England and installed it as the lintel in his Yorkshire cottage. Soon after, in the grounds of Scarfell Cottage, the terrible ragthorn took root and encompassed the building. Dr Alexander, like his great uncle before him, is convinced that the tree possesses supernatural qualities, and this powerful novella charts his investigations of a tree that he believes crops up in Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer and the Bible – an obsessive quest that culminates in his search for immortality.
The This is Horror web site published a more in-depth review by Simon Bestwick. Here’s a sample:
‘The Ragthorn’ won the 1992 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella, and it isn’t hard to see why. Like many great ideas, the story’s premise has an elegant and enviable simplicity: it’s the kind of tale no writer can read without thinking ‘Why the hell didn’t anyone think of this before? Hell, why didn’t I?”
As ever, though, the proof of the pudding is in the execution, and Holdstock and Kilworth never disappoint. The spell they weave is utterly convincing; the sense of place, from the Mesopotamian plain to the bleak Yorkshire moorland, is perfectly evoked.
Another of the novella’s particular charms is the evocation of classic English literature, from Chaucer to Shakespeare, to provide evidence of the ragthorn myth and clues as to its application. It’s beautifully done, deepening the sense that we are lifting the lid on history to see something that was always with us, only just out of sight. And it comes full circle with a verse by John Betjeman, absorbing the events of the story into the cycle of myth and legend that Alexander has drawn on throughout the narrative in a chilling conclusion that will stay with you long after the last line is read.