Treacle Walker

S. & S. Audio. Nov. 2023. 1:48 hrs. ISBN 9781797164908. $9.99. FANTASY
Beloved fantasy writer Garner offers a literary exploration of death and dreams wrapped inside the structure of a children’s tale. Tracing the story of young Joseph Coppock’s encounters with the rag-and-bone man Treacle Walker, Garner’s metaphors are firmly grounded in the folklore of the United Kingdom and echo back to even his earliest work, 1960’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. Robert Powell’s theatrical narration simultaneously lends the book deep drama and childish wonder, underlaid with an air of practicality. His Joseph fully embraces the uncanny world Treacle Walker’s medicine reveals while still marveling at the “daft” strangeness of it all. The dingy normality of Coppock’s home and routine slowly fracture, inviting listeners to puzzle at the inconsistencies of this uncertain landscape. Powell’s storytelling prowess makes the magical feel normal while tinging Joseph’s life with an uncanniness that bleeds into the extraordinary. This juxtaposition of literary fiction and middle-grade fantasy may not work for every listener, but it’s an interesting endeavor with a density and a short run time that invite relistening.
VERDICT Garner’s latest evokes Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy with the joining of philosophy and childhood perspectives.
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