Widely acclaimed as one of Britain’s greatest writers, in this memoir Garner, born in 1934, recalls his childhood growing up in the Cheshire village of Alderley Edge during the second world war. At school they practised wearing gas masks during lessons and made rude noises by blowing against the rubber sides...
This is a hauntingly beautiful memoir, written in a deceptively simple style and filled with the innocence of childhood, when “there is a dock for every nettle”.
Written in a vivid first person, in a past tense that seems to belong not to seventy or eighty years ago (Garner was born in 1934) but to a moment that has only just finished happening, Where Shall We Run To? is short. It contains sixteen self-contained vignettes, each with brief, tempting titles (“Bomb”, “Widdershins”, “Mr Noon”), suggesting again the folk tales that have enriched Garner’s entire oeuvre, and that he has himself retold and collected to acclaim. The vignettes themselves have the direct assurance of such tales, driving into the meat of the matter with no wasted introductory flourishes: “I could read big letters but not little ones”; “Our house was on Trafford Road where Stevens Street meets Moss Lane”; “Mr Henshall died, and I got his bike, but I couldn’t ride it”.
Alan Garner’s Where Shall We Run To? is the veteran author’s account of growing up in rural wartime Cheshire. His narrative is lyrical and clear-eyed by turn, full not just of dappled sunlight on five‑bar gates and bomb shelters but also of the social apartheid brought about by the well-meaning 1944 Education Act... For here, surely, is the driving impulse behind Garner’s wonderful folkloric fictional world.