The story alternates between the 1930/40s and the late 1960s in the eponymous English small town. It is difficult to describe the plot, for it reflects the personal perspectives of the novel’s main protagonists, and these are an eclectic bunch. Sean Matthew is just eight and lives in the new housing estate being built on the edge of Cryers Hill, during those days when man first walked upon the Moon. The murder of a local schoolgirl has a profound effect on him.
Walter Brown is a frustrated poet, who chases after the rather cranky Mary Butt in the 1930s before joining up to fight in World War Two. The two tales are conjoined, and both are imbued in the history of the times. The flavour of late 1960s England is superbly realised. Sean is struggling to learn to read with the phonetic-based Initial Teaching Alphabet (ITA) reading experiment system adopted in some English schools in that decade, and which I also suffered at the same time – fortunately without terminally ruining my nascent appetite for reading! ITA was all well and good until the time came to change over to conventional alphabet and reading, and then the problems started. This is a captivating, quixotic historical novel