Pig Iron by Benjamin Myers

Pig IronPig Iron by Benjamin Myers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A compulsive read; fascinating and sometimes horrifying by turns. Benjamin Myers writes with playful joy in oral language and with humour and compassion. The main character is of the traveller culture and, while having been cut off without a full grasp of it, he has been shaped by it and it has given him important strengths, including a strong affinity with the natural world and an enjoyment of the solitary as well as the social. The reader sees things as this taciturn narrator sees them. As he tries to get his life on track he gradually draws the reader into his situation and way of seeing. Through the little he says, his reactions to others and theirs to him, the reader catches hints of what is withheld even from himself and what brought himto this point. And all the while a parallel narrative is interleaved, evidently connected and gradually entwining itself with the main narrative as it runs on.
This is a story about inheritance, genetic and social; the inevitability or otherwise of repeating the past; whether different motives for what may be seen from the outside as similar behaviour alter the nature of the act; how far it is possible for an individual to step outside the role that is offered and assumed for him and what gives him the strength to do so. Some characters in the book are trapped by their circumstances and either do not question their position, see no way out or make the most of this to create an alternative economy, finding ways of surviving. Others look outside but find it too much to make the break. Some desire control and power within their community by violent policing of its boundaries and sub-culture. Being outside to two cultures perhaps gives the narrator an ability to see more clearly.

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