In the Orchard, the Swallows
London, Faber, 2012, 139p
This week, I had the honour of meeting some incredibly brilliant young people at the First Story Arvon Residential Week. If they are the future of literature, I cannot wait!
I also had the priviledge of meeting Peter Hobbs and Salena Godon, who were the tutors for the young writers. During the week, they inspired and supported the students, bringing out their best work. They also shared their work, and I was lucky enough to borrow Pete's own copy for a quick read.
In the Orchard, the Swallows is a beautiful short novel about a romantic encounter between a young couple. Later, the young man recalls the night they spent together in the orchard, and the tragedy they faced when they awoke the next morning. Their love is forbidden, and he suffers, disappears, and is imprisoned.
The opening of the novel is intriguing. The young narrator does not give everything away at one, but promises his reader to reveal more "in time". He swaps between past and present, building the readers' intrigue. The style is like a diary or a letter, talking to the reader, who we later discover is intended to be his love. His memory of her is so strong, it is powerful enough to help him overcome any suffering.
Beneath the romance, political elements seep through the words. The story, set in Pakistan, highlights the potential of disillusioned men turning angry and violent. Our young narrator is lucky - his love pulls him through the torture of imprisonment - but he acknowledges that need for a release, and the dangerous lure of the Taliban.
My favourite part was the description of a sunrise. Hobbs' language is so beautiful. As the sun comes up over the city, it is like removing a veil of the night. The imagery is so powerful and visual, and the moment is one of shared love.