The late 1870s, the Kentish village of Downe. The villagers gather in church one rainy Sunday. Only Thomas Davies stays away. The eccentric loner, father of two and a grief-stricken widower, works as a gardener for the notorious naturalist, Charles Darwin. He shuns religion. But now Thomas needs answers. What should he believe in? And why should he continue to live?
Why Peirene chose to publish this book:
'A stunning, poetic work. Like Dylan Thomas in Under Milk Wood, Carlson evokes the voices of an entire village, and, through them, the spirit of the age. The apparent tensions between science and spirituality, Darwinism and humanism, reach a beautiful, life-affirming resolution.' Meike Ziervogel
PUBLISHED BY PEIRENE PRESS
This is a quirky little book that looks at the victorian age and the contrasts of opinions amongst a community on the subject of grief, religion and evolution.
It's written in a slightly strange way, that takes some getting used to, but through the variety of perspectives there's a touching and thought provoking story of a man dealing with his grief of losing his wife, leaving him with 2 disabled children, and the thoughts that run through his head as he tries - and fails! - to make sense of it all.
The majority of the community in which he lives are all very religious, so they can't understand his questions and issues with god and belief so he almost becomes the talk of the town for the wrong reasons as they sneer at him and fail to appreciate the struggles he's going through. He's angry at the world but they can't understand his pain - as you reader, you connect with him more than the other villagers! There's the contrast of seeing the world through his pain and focussing on the injustices of the world, alongside the miracles of life as the world carries on regardless of his suffering.
I did lose track a few times with the constant changing of voices, but underneath it all there are some beautiful little observations while you follow this man searching for seeds of hope while he's in a dark place - very telling with his job as a gardener which is all based on looking forward and the anticipation of each season ahead.