Five words from the blurb: American, English, ancestral, tools, ghosts
Scorper is a strange, but beautiful book. I’ve not read anything like it before, but it could be described as a cross between All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills and Strangers by Taichi Yamada, with a bit of The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling mixed in. The story is set in Ditchling, a small village in rural Sussex, where an American has travelled in order to study his ancestors. The book combines realistic (and often humourous) observations of British village life with surreal scenes in which the American meets his long-dead relatives.
The writing quality was outstanding – I think this is the first time I’ve enjoyed a book written in the second-person narrative style. It felt so original and I loved the meta aspects of the text:
The book was also very well researched. It introduced me to Eric Gill, a stone mason who invented several different typefaces, and explained the art of carving wood (using a scorper, the tool referred to in the title). I loved the way the book mixed fact with fantasy, creating something that felt almost Japanese in origin – a strange outcome for a text so rooted in the English countryside.
My only criticism is that I had no emotional connection to the characters – the reader simply has to enjoy observing this strange story. Luckily the writing was so strong I was able to suspend my disbelief and enjoy this bizarre tale.
Recommended to anyone looking for something a bit different.