Booker Prize contender ‘Treacle Walker’ is small but mighty

“Treacle Walker” by Alan Garner is probably the strangest book I’ve ever read. Even with a font size appropriate for a children’s novel, it’s only 152 pages. It’s a quiet Sunday morning novel you can read from start to finish before lunchtime. But don’t be fooled: its length in no way reflects its impact. For nearly a week, I have been curious and amazed by this little book. It’s not even a sucker. “Honey Walker” is more of a slow burn — a simple story that’s both heavy and complex.

From a genre point of view, “Honey Walker” is a surrealist novel, whimsical and bizarre. The plot tells the story of an ordinary boy, Joe, who meets a strange man named Honey Walker. They made a bizarre deal (Joe gave the man pajamas and a lamb shoulder blade in exchange for a jar and a stone) that allowed Joe to see and experience the most bizarre things he’d never been aware of. Reality. Comic book characters jump out of their pages, and the tiny swamp suddenly becomes infinite and inevitable. A lot of weird things happened, so to speak. Joe explores this strange new world, occasionally aided by the mysterious Treacle Walker, who seems to know what’s going on but never explicitly explains anything. There’s also a sense of isolation in this novel—Joe doesn’t seem to have any friends, family, or even neighbors, and nearly every character he interacts with is part of his mysterious new concept.

As you can imagine, the novel is confusing at times and can be confusing to readers. Garner’s work is very lengthy, with only a few pages per chapter, so you might think “Syrup Walker” would be tiresome and tedious to read — but its frugal writing backfires. The mysterious stillness leaves the reader immersed in the story, grabbing every word with ecstasy, and cherishing the sheer wisdom and truth that make this novel so compelling. Phrases are repeated throughout the novel: “What you see is what you get,” “I heal everything; save jealousy,” “Never.” Throughout my reading, I felt like I was missing at least half of the deeper The subject – not because of lack of focus. A lot is happening in each sentence. Garner came up with a million different ideas, but never articulated them; it was all unspoken. That’s the wonder of “Treacle Walker”: it’s a book you can read over and over and see something new each time.

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