(British, 1956– ) Thorpe was brought up in India, Cameroon, and England, and now lives in France. A strong sense of place pervades his writing, particularly his brilliant first novel—and the one to start with—Ulverton (1992). The novel consists of twelve stories connected by their setting—the fictional, archetypal English village of Ulverton. The first story is set in 1650 and subsequent stories cover dates up to the final one (in the form of a film-script) dated 1988. One of the joys of the novel is the range and authenticity of narrators' voices in the stories, particularly the letters in ‘Leeward 1743’ and the peasant stream-of-consciousness story ‘Stitches 1887’. The ways in which people love, use, and exploit the land are important here; and Thorpe's sense of history is exhilarating. His second novel, Still (1995) was less successful; at 584 pages, and with a jaundiced, self-lacerating, middle-aged male narrator, it is hard work. Pieces of Light (1998) opens wonderfully, with the story of Hugh's early childhood in Cameroon; when the novel moves to England, and to his reminiscences as an old man, the voice is less engaging, although the rich plot and scope of the novel are still rewarding. Thorpe is also known for his poetry.
John Fowles, Thomas Hardy JR