I’m sitting in long grass above the valley, snapping ferns
colour of the twisted metal strips rusting on the old colliery yard.
Between stark shadows on the far side, echoes of an air rifle. Dead
thistles poke erect, petrified, through scars in the tarmac, but the
gorse is so bright it hurts the eye. Half-bare tree straight ahead like
a gospel-singer, arms outstretched, a pair of black tights hanging
limply from the top branch... "
Reviewed by Vanessa Gebbie
Brian George should
be better known. “Walking The
Labyrinth” is brought to the reader thanks to a very small
press. But there are advantages to that. This volume is a beautiful
thing to have, produced with real pride; hardback, quality paper,
quality binding. We need, I think, to be thankful that small presses
are still fulfilling a vital role in literature. Without them many
writers as good as Brian George would not be heard. All strength to the
This is a writer
whose observation skills are sharply honed. His characters live and
breathe as they go through their small dramas in the streets and pubs,
the clubs and offices of the South Wales valleys. His characters are
those on the margins. The worker in a watchstrap factory. The van
driver. And my favorite occupation here; Assistant ticket clipper at
the second entrance door, summer season only.
Brian George is a
gifted writer. He is as at ease writing female voices as male, and
indeed, whereas all his characters are very well drawn, I thought some
of the very strongest characters were the females. Rosa in Smother Day,
Alison in Karaoke Cymraeg,
Judith in Ten Quid For
A Busted Casio, Donna in The Eagle and The Bollard.
These are the women I remember from my childhood in Merthyr. Strong,
feisty. Music features large here; he is equally at ease describing a
guitar riff as the quiet life of a piano teacher.
His themes are
strong. He does not confine himself to the interpersonal
drama but his stories encompass political comment that has its roots
far from Wales. Vietnam. China. He visits a post-apocalyptic future in
the title story in which the darkness that sits behind much of this
collection seems to well up into the most memorable piece of writing.
But all his settings reflect the sadness and emptiness of the
‘industrial wasteland’ of the valleys. And the
glimpses he gives us of his characters, people we care about long after
we have put down the book, are like the flashes of yellow gorse against
the loom of the tips and the skeletons of the old mine buildings.
I can recommend this book wholeheartedly.
Vanessa Gebbie's short
fiction is widely published and has won many awards including prizes at
Fish 2007 and Bridport 2007. Her first collection, Words from A Glass Bubble, was published by
Salt Publishing, Cambridge in March 2008. Her novel in progress won a
first prize at The Daily Telegraph novel competition 2007.
Vanessa's other Short Reviews: Phobic anthology
Brian George "Walking the Labyrinth"
Heidi James, Kay Sexton and Lucy Fry "Two Tall Tales and One Short Novel"
George was born in South Wales.
He studied French and English at University,
and has a Ph.D in contemporary French literature. He has written
articles on French theatre and pop music. His poetry and short fiction
have appeared in literary journals, and he was a prizewinner in the
2001 Rhys Davies Competition.
with Brian George
Buy this book (used or
Publisher's Website: Stonebridge Press
forget your local booksellers and independent book shops! Visit IndieBound.org to find an independent bookstore near you in the US