Tom Fobble’s Day is the final part in a quartet of books inspired by Alan Garner’s family who lived at Alderley Edge, a hill of Arthurian legend in Cheshire. It’a a series crafted with such symmetry and beauty that you gasp, just as its protagonist does as he takes his maiden journey down Lizzie Leah’s hill on a brand new sledge.
This final story in the Stone Book sequence features thrilling sequences of snowball fights and sledge runs taken underneath the flight path of German bombers evading the gunfire in a nearby field. The artillery shrapnel lands in the fresh fallen snow and dismounts many of the sledgers. But Tom has a new ride with runners forged by his grandfather William, and he is more deadly than any Dornier or Heinkel bomber.
‘He came in on the bombers from above and out of the sun. Two crossed his sights and he gave them a burst. They went down together. Another tried to dodge him and crashed. He raced through the pack and settled on the leader’s tail. The leader climbed hard at the hump, but William caught his fusilage with a runner and the leader spun out of control and hit the tree.’
But it’s the scenes where William visits Joseph in his forge that the real magic happens. Each part of The Stone Book has featured perfect descriptions of the different crafts and skills practiced by the author’s family down the ages. Now the forge comes flaming to life through Garner’s wonderful language and Michael Foreman’s heavy, atmospheric pen and ink lines.
Tom Fobble’s Day is also Joseph’s last as a blacksmith and so he sacrifices the handles from his forge bellows to fix the sledge, adding iron and wood from an old loom that had been used by William’s great-great-great-uncle in part one of The Stone Book. The symbolism is heavy and deeply effective.
‘He set off. It had not been imagined. He was not alone on the sledge. There was a line and he could feel it. It was a line through hand and eye, block, forge and loom to the hill. He owned them all: and they owned him.’
Read more about the Stone Book in ‘Alan Garner’s Caves‘