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Walking the Labyrinth

Brian George

" … I’m sitting in long grass above the valley, snapping ferns the 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 small presses! 

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" 










Publisher: Stonebridge Press

Publication Date: 2005

Paperback/Hardback? Hardback

First collection?: Yes

Author bio: Brian 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.

Read an interview  with Brian George

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The Publisher's Website: Stonebridge Press

The Author


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