Treacle Walker was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2022. This latest fiction from a remarkable and enduring talent brilliantly illuminates an introspective young mind trying to make sense of the world around him.

Joe Coppock squints at the world with his lazy eye. He reads his comics, collects birds’ eggs and treasures his marbles, particularly his prized dobbers. When Treacle Walker appears off the moor one day - a wanderer, a healer - an unlikely friendship is forged and the young boy is introduced to a world he could never have imagined.

In this playful, moving and evocative fable, set once again in his beloved Cheshire, the masterly Alan Garner delivers both a stunning fusion of myth and folklore and a profound exploration of the fluidity of time.

The Booker Prize 2022
Published by
4th Estate, HarperCollins
Publication date

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Alan Garner

Alan Garner

About the Author

Alan Garner was born in Cheshire in 1934 and grew up in Alderley Edge. In 2001, he was awarded an OBE for his services to literature.
More about Alan Garner

Alan Garner on Treacle Walker

‘It’s a pleasure and an honour for the work to be recognized. As for winning, I’m of the “fail better” school, which is another way of saying the donkey must never catch the carrot. So winning would be a spur rather than an end. It would also help my wife and me to look after the ancient house that has looked after us for more than 60 years and has enabled me to write.

‘The process that led to Treacle Walker lasted from 22 July 2012 to 25 July 2020. It began with an anecdote a friend told me, which I instantly ‘knew’ would produce a novel, though what kind of a novel it would be I had no idea.

‘I write and revise in longhand, then transfer to the computer for safety. Word-building is an organic process, and the elbow is a good editor; whereas, for me, the click of a keyboard has neither rhythm, direction, energy, nor life.

‘Over time, the way of writing has moved from a carving of words as I went along to now, when (once the intensive and protracted research has been done) a long period of physical and mental sluggishness overcomes me, which is broken abruptly by “seeing” and “hearing” the start of the book, with little understanding of what it’s about. Next, the closing sentences frequently appear, and I’ve learnt to write them down without question. Then it’s largely a matter of “watching” the story unroll as a film and getting it onto paper. It’s a mysterious, but not a mystical, sensation.’

Read the full interview here.

Alan Garner

What the judges said

‘Garner bared to the bone in late style. This tiny book compresses all his themes – time, childhood, language, science and landscape entangled – into a single, calmly plaintive cry.’

What the critics said

Alex Preston, The Observer

‘The riotous energy of seemingly throwaway comics is shown to be in communion with the power of myth and both express truths found in the most cutting-edge science. This is a book about quantum physics as well as ancient lore. Garner has always suggested that there is essentially just one story, and this novel, published in his 87th year, contains all the exuberance and eccentricity, all the deep thought and resounding mythology of his best work. At the end of his life, Philip Roth wrote the extraordinary Nemesis, a book that felt like a conversation between the author and his younger self, an attempt to express in a single novel the concerns of a lifetime. Treacle Walker does something similar, cramming into its 150-odd pages more ideas and imagination than most authors manage in their whole careers.’

Pauline Kim, The Michigan Daily

‘Alan Garner’s Treacle Walker might just be the strangest book I’ve ever read. Even with a font size suited for a kids’ novel, it clocks in at only 152 pages. It’s a quiet, Sunday morning kind of novel that you can read cover to cover before lunchtime. But don’t be fooled: in no way does its length reflect its impact. I’ve been wondering and marveling at this little book for almost a week now. It’s not even that it packs a sucker punch; Treacle Walker is more of a slow burn – a simple story that is simultaneously weighty and complex.’

Catherine Taylor, Financial Times

Treacle Walker is spare, supple and intense at just over 150 pages, and its themes will be familiar to Garner aficionados: a sensitive, lonely child, ordinary-seeming yet talismanic objects, unseen forces shaping the past, present and future. Yet there is always something unexpected in Garner’s work: a quality that is both perturbing and cleansing.’

Kirkus Review

‘“Time is ignorance,” reads the epigraph, and Garner seems to imply that tedious adult ideas like plot and chronology hold no sway here. This is a book that takes place before the binocular vision of youth and the child’s comfort with mystery have fully faded or flattened (though the through-line, if there is one, has to do with Joseph’s desire to grow up and set magic aside). Alluring, elusive, and quick – a fable for adolescents, and for those willing to revisit the murk and jumble of adolescence.’

Felix Taylor, Literary Review

‘In Treacle Walker, Garner, now eighty-seven, continues to give expression to a lifelong obsession with myth and its curative effects. Here, his vision is slimmed down to a sparse yet masterful 150 pages: this is a mesmerising folktale where every word counts.’

Treacle Walker by Alan Garner

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