Planet 246

Mary-Ann Constantine
Treacle Walker
by Alan Garner

 by Alan Garner

Fourth Estate, £8.99

It begins beautifully:

Ragbone! Ragbone! Any rags! Pots for rags! Donkey stone!

Joe looked up from his comic and lifted his eye patch. Noony rattled past the house and the smoke from her engine blew across the yard. It was midday. The sky shone.

Ragbone! Ragbone! Any rags! Pots for rags! Donkey stone!

Quick, Joe. Now, Joe.

The view through the window across the fields and up the track contains nothing new. Only after another call does Joe think to look directly down, into the yard, where a man with a creased face and a floppy hat sits on a horse and cart, waiting. The man is Treacle Walker, one of two significant characters whom Joe meets and talks to in this short, rich novel. The boy and the rag-and-bone man barter: an old pair of Joe’s pyjamas and one of his treasures, a lamb’s shoulder blade, in exchange for a cracked earthenware jar containing a smear of ointment, and a ‘donkey stone’.

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About the author

Mary-Ann Constantine is an academic who works on the culture of eighteenth-century Wales: she is currently completing a book on tours of Wales. She has also published two volumes of short stories and a novel, Star-Shot (2013).