It is 1980 and on a dilapidated hill farm in Radnorshire on the Welsh Borders, Andrew grows up in emotional poverty. Neglected by his parents, almost feral, he spends his time with the farm dogs, sharing their dark spaces in the barns, huddling with them for warmth and comfort. Cold and uncouth, his father, Philip, seems moulded by the harshness of the surrounding terrain.
On the neighbouring farm live seven-year-old Robin and his younger brother Martin – the sons of English immigrants who have come to terms with the cruel realities behind the Welsh rural idyll. As Robin and Andrew become friends, the ramshackle farm of Werndunvan and the landscape beyond open up to them – fostering them, in a Wordsworthian mould, through beauty and through fear.
When Andrew discovers a Claude Glass – a portable convex mirror used by Romantic tourists to frame and transform a prospect – in one of the farm’s abandoned rooms, internal imaginative worlds and the external landscape are brought into strange and compelling alignments against a background of adult tension and stress.
Charting the two boys’ growing understanding with immense sensitivity and insight, The Claude Glass hauntingly evokes a Welsh borderland territory whose bleak beauty and cultural layeredness provide a depth of field for the quiet drama that unfolds. Playing brutal realities off against local lore and legend, children’s expansive imaginations against the emotional constriction of adult relationships, and instinctual compassion against life’s cruelties, this novel announces Tom Bullough as a young writer of remarkable maturity and vision.
'This is a novel of compelling complexity of thought and feeling, sustained by the authenticity of its rich detail.'
'Written with a poet's sensibility and eye for telling detail, this novel about the difficulties of comprehending otherness has a lyrical intensity.'
The Mail on Sunday
'This often unnerving tale of romanticism suffocating beneath the weight of flinty pragmatism shows Bullough to be a very gifted writer indeed.'
The Independent on Sunday
The Claude Glass
Sort of Books (2007)
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