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Hinton Reviews

Hinton by Mark Blacklock

Hinton

Mark Blacklock

3.50 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Granta Books
Publisher: Granta Books
Publication date: 2 Apr 2020
ISBN: 9781783785209

Hinton is about extraordinary discoveries, and terrible choices. It is about people who discover and map other realms, and what the implications might be for those of us left behind.

  • The ObserverBook of the Day
3 stars out of 5
28 Apr 2020

"The third-person narration unfolds in the cool, clean present tense we’ve come to associate with modern historical fiction"

Ultimately, Hinton serves as an ingenious variant on the traditional buried secret narrative, in which the requisite playing for time is primarily an effect of structure, not to mention any number of diverting typographical tricks - when Hinton tries looking through a stereoscope for the first time, there’s a ghostly doubling of the text; when he invents a machine for throwing baseballs, the sound appears in supersize fonts. Yet, perhaps aptly for a novel concerned with the psychic repercussions of denial, it’s hard not to feel that the relentless game-playing might also work to ward off hard questions about the value Blacklock is adding by telling Hinton’s story this way, rather than as orthodox biography.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
2 May 2020

"The disgraced mathematician and bigamist Charles Howard Hinton is sympathetically portrayed in this unusual, enriching novel"

Blacklock’s handling of this story is elegant and tender — ‘William had been named for Howard’s beloved younger brother, a promising student and gentle soul, overcome by pulmonary paroxysm in his 15th year’ — even if his enthusiasm for diagrams and typographical oddities can be gimmicky, and his many philosophical digressions distracting. On the whole, Hinton is a refreshing, unusual and enriching tale of ‘sadness and scandal’ that, in its capacity for imaginative compassion, manages to find something ennobling in both.

4 stars out of 5
Nina Allan
23 Apr 2020

"this exploration of science and personality is a singular achievement"

From the remarkable facts about the Hintons, Blacklock weaves a distinct and original fiction, a fittingly four-dimensional representation of lived reality. Questions of societal convention versus individual freedom and Classical enlightenment versus Romantic self-expression play themselves out against a backdrop that, as we familiarise ourselves with its complexities, jumps glowingly to life. This is a dense, multilayered, knotty book, demanding the reader’s full cooperation. But Blacklock’s attention to detail, his imaginative reach, not to mention his willingness to wrestle with problems of geometry, have produced a singular literary achievement.