Click here for Alice's author page.
It is 1936. Iris Tennant applies to become personal assistant to Lord Melfort, the Under-Secretary of War, at his private estate in the Scottish Highlands. Her secret plan is to find out why her younger sister Daphne committed suicide there a year previously. As Iris gradually falls under the spell of Glen Almain, she starts to see the apparition of Daphne haunting its glades and begins to wonder about the manner of her death. Is there really a beast that inhabits the woods? Who is the mysterious falconer? What actually happened to Daphne, and is Iris destined for the same fate? A backdrop of impending war and the spectre of Nazi Germany loom over this strange, dark tale. What ensues is a battle between instinct and reason, fantasy and history. Award-winning writer Alice Thompson's compelling new novel is a story of transformation; an exploration of the shifting borderlands between imagination and reality.
Praise for The Falconer
'There's folk and fairy tale in this, some whimsy, some Angela Carter-style sensuality, combined with an earthy realism, and a thriller-style plot... Thompson's writing is, as ever, the kind that demands full attention – important details are embedded in lyrical description or insinuated into an apparently innocuous observation. This is not a book that is kind to readers – you have to buy into the world its author has created, accept its own very special laws – and that requires effort. But it's effort that is ultimately rewarded: I doubt you'll read another book quite like it this year.'
'The world she creates is claustrophobic and hypnotic, recognisably a dream but also rational on its own, admittedly skewed, terms... Many novelists bore readers to sleep. Wake up to The Falconer.' The Sunday Herald
Rosemary Goring in The Herald (August 11, 2008) on Alice Thompson's Edinburgh International Book Festival event with John Burnside:
'Each sends a shiver down the spine, Thompson with her elegant prose and eerie imagination ... Thompson uses the supernatural as a way of looking at evil — "a lot of what goes on in the world is unreal, or surreal, so depicting it in a surreal way makes sense" ... Thompson and Burnside both write like angels.'
The Falconer is unconcerned with the mundane mechanics of plot or the ordinary actions of its characters. It is engaged with the subconscious of the story: not the stuff that it is made of, but the opposite, the intangible effects on the psyche of the reader ... it has the frustrating, perverse insight of a dream, with all the inconsequentiality, discomfort and darkness that are also native to the dreaming self. It is an experiment, in imagery and mythology ...' For the full review and an insightful analysis of Alice's work, see Eve's Alexandria.
For a review on the Vulpes Libris blog, please click here: http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2008/06/08/alice-thompson-the-falconer/
For a review on the Lizzy Siddal blog, please click here: http://lizzysiddal.wordpress.com/2008/05/23/the-falconer-alice-thompson/
Praise for Alice Thompson's previous novels
‘Cunning, clever, unbelievably casually complex – this is it: the intellectual future of British writing.’ Ali Smith, The Scotsman
‘Elegantly spare ... radically different in plot, style and language ... Thompson is one of the more original and idiosyncratic new voices in fiction.’ Patricia Nicol, Sunday Times
‘Thompson writes with a detached clarity that is liquid and sensual.’ Rosemary Goring, Scotland on Sunday
‘Ingenious ... Pharos rejects the classic ghost story for an impressively disorientating opening out of its generic rules.’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Our reading is deliberately made uneasy and uncertain ... but the elegance and accuracy with which Thompson uses language is formidable.’
‘Light and dark, life and death, good and evil: these are the themes of Pharos, a strange, highly original tale full of evocative images.’
About Alice Thompson
The Falconer is critically-acclaimed author Alice Thompson’s fourth novel. The former keyboard player with post-punk eighties band, the Woodentops, was joint winner with Graham Swift of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction for her first novel, Justine. Her second novel, Pandora’s Box, was shortlisted for The Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year. Alice is also a past winner of a Creative Scotland Award. She lives in Edinburgh.
An extract from The Falconer
On returning to the library that afternoon, Iris passed a type of file she hadn’t seen before, lying on Lord Melfort’s desk. The document was marked in red ink, MOST SECRET: Biological Warfare Tests: Recent Results from Gruinard Island. She opened it up, her eyes darting quickly over the words: Bacillus Anthracis. She heard footsteps outside, and quickly returned to her desk before Lord Melfort came in.
At night, Iris heard the howling call out to her again, as if drawing her outside. She went downstairs into the garden. Peering into the darkness, she saw something move about between the hedges. She let out a cry, but it was only Coll who suddenly appeared in front of her.
‘You gave me a fright!’ The boy’s eyes looked so large and pale in the moonlight. His dog was barking frantically at his side.
‘She’s been like this for hours. She’s gone quite mad,’ Coll said. For a moment, he looked like a child lost in the forest of his thoughts, tripping up on roots of unpalatable events. He bent down and stroked the dog’s back, but Cassie refused to be calmed. The boy was perturbed. They shared a certain state of mind, and if one was disturbed, so was the other.
‘Go home,’ Iris told the boy gently, and Coll led Cassie, still barking, back towards the avenue, only stopping for a moment to pick up a wounded blackbird that lay on the ground. Iris was left alone in the garden.
Something was moving in the shadows far off, where the garden met the wildness. At first it looked human, but then she realized it must be a huge animal of some kind, hunched and obscure. It merged with the shadows and disappeared into the recesses of the trees, as if not made of flesh and bone but of atoms of darkness formed from the blackness of night.
Stars scattered over the sky like frozen points of ice. The new moon was sharp and pointed at the tips of its scimitar curve. It was such a still night – as if the world had been fashioned from glass. The night air was cold enough to catch her breath. Iris touched her face. She too felt as if she were made of glass, and that if she were to turn and take the first step back to the castle, she might shatter into pieces. So she stood still in the moonlight, waiting, waiting to see a glimpse of what she had seen again but there was nothing, only the glimmer of leaves.
That night, Iris dreamt Daphne was crossing the field of the small island of Gruinard, which lay edged with rocks in the middle of a stormy sea. The field was littered with huddled bodies. At first Iris thought they were sheep, but as she looked more closely at the hunched shapes scattered over the fields, she saw that they were not animals at all, but dead soldiers.