Moving and exhilarating, tender and slyly witty, The Perfect Golden Circle is a captivating novel about the futility of war, the destruction of the English countryside, class inequality – and the power of beauty to heal trauma and fight power.
Benjamin Myers is in my opinion one of the greatest British voices in fiction. His previous works Beastings, The Gallows Pole, Male Tears, The Offing, Pig Iron showcase his vast talent and his continued development as a writer, each book is different and each contains lightning in a bottle – if you’ve not discovered Myers’ work yet, I urge you to do so, he’s a national treasure.
Myers’ works can be classified as many things; historical fiction, nature writing, literary fiction, contemporary whilst also being challenging, raw, poetic and emotionally led. His new offering ‘The Perfect Golden Circle‘ shows a culmination in all of these areas and Myers delivers a story that has a huge heart beating at the very centre of this particular golden circle.
When the book was announced and when a copy of it found its way to my house I was delighted, I’m always happy when a new Myers book lands. This one came off the back of Male Tears – a short story collection I wasn’t bowled over by, and felt that there could have been more exploration of the themes the blurb for the collection promised (a review of this can be found here).
After reading the blurb for this book, honestly, I thought what have we got here. Two guys who go around the English countryside crafting crop circles. I have to say it wasn’t the most promising of blurbs, it sounded pretty boring to me (someone who doesn’t really care for those things), and I wondered if I was going to engage in the book, but I’d of course read it, it’s Benjamin ‘fricking‘ Myers of course, I would.
All of those fears and worries I had about the book were allayed in the first few paragraphs. Myers had me under his beguiling spell in an instant. The opening of the book is utterly gripping and perfectly sets the tone for what we are about to encounter. From his choice of language, to how beautifully he renders the countryside and nature, to how he wound the threads of the story around me so tightly and so quickly that I couldn’t escape even if I wanted to. I was locked in and this allowed Myers to showcase perfectly and masterfully why he is the best British writer working at the moment. I’d go as far as to say Myers is the best British writer of a generation!
England, 1989. Over the course of a burning hot summer, two very different men – traumatized Falklands veteran Calvert, and affable, chaotic Redbone – set out nightly in a clapped-out camper van to undertake an extraordinary project.
The glue that holds this story together is the relationship and development of our two protagonists. We’re treated to a small cast, two ageing men. Calvert, who is a traumatized veteran and Redbone a chaotic, rogue who is troubled in his own way by the visions he has which they transfer to the canvas of the fields in their nightly raids. We get to know these characters over the course of the book, we walk alongside them as they chat the fat. They were strangers at the story’s opening and by the conclusion, they have become dear friends and we are completely and utterly invested in their lives.
The thing about The Perfect Golden Circle is that it is all-consuming and in a way that shows the masterful talent Myers has as a raconteur. From the very moment I opened the cover I was a captive to the story, the rest of the world dissolved around me and it was only me, Calvert and Redbone. That place of peace and reflection is something that is hard to discover in a modern society where our chaotic lives have so many trappings for our time and attention. But I can honestly say that this book was therapeutic in a way, it gave me the escapism that I desperately craved and I loved every moment of it, it was an opportunity to let the world’s troubles and my own busy life slip away whilst I basked in Myers words and beautiful story.
I was transported to those fields, I could smell the summer air, felt the mud soft one moment and then get hard and cracked the next under my feet. The touch of stalks of wheat as they blew in the breeze and grazed my arms. The sweat on my skin as the sun beat down on me which was soon followed by having my skin cooled by the cold night as the moon washed everything in its silvery brilliance. I could imagine perfectly the wildlife and countryside around me, which Myers paints so vividly and with such detail that it made me appreciate how beautiful the world is and the next time I went out I looked longingly at things I’d previously overlooked or grown tired of; nature, plants and my surroundings were brought to life again in a way where I was fully aware of the beauty of the world around me.
But I also was part of this friendship that you read about, I was there during their conversations, I was present. I learnt about their lives, their fears and anxieties, when they were pained I was pained. I felt their frustrations and shared them too. Myers brought me into that field, introduced me to Redbone and Calvert and want to thank him for that, I want to praise him for that… there is nothing greater than this feeling from a book and this one will live long in the memory.
The Perfect Golden Circle is a triumph of a book, showcasing a writer at his very best. There is a huge heart beating in this magical story. A heartfelt story that is transformative and transportive, pick it up today and enjoy spending time with two dear friends!
The Perfect Golden Circle is published by Bloomsbury and you can get a copy here.
Benjamin Myers was born in Durham in 1976. His novel The Gallows Pole received a Roger Deakin Award and won the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. Beastings won the Portico Prize for Literature and Pig Iron won the Gordon Burn Prize, while Richard was a Sunday Times Book of the Year. He has also published poetry, crime novels and short fiction, while his journalism has appeared in publications including, among others, the Guardian, New Statesman, Caught by the River and New Scientist.
He lives in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire.
benmyers.com / @BenMyers1
Review by Ross Jeffery
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