Edmonds, M & Garner, A (2016) The Beauty Things Group VI Press ISBN 978 0 946722 28 0


A creative act of bringing the past into the present.

The Beauty Things is a record of conversations between Mark Edmonds (Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of York, who has a particular interest in arts-based approaches to the interpretation of history) and author Alan Garner. Alan Garner draws much of the power of his writing from his sense of place and history, and that of his and his family’s history within that place.

And from objects.


Using objects that matter to Garner, including several that have played central roles in his novels, The Beauty Things explores the power that objects possess and the roles they play in the stories we tell, about history, the world and about ourselves.

The Beauty Things is an exploration of a relationship with objects, not the clutter we’re encouraged to desire, but those objects that connect us to people, to place and to the past. Objects that find us, that possess us, even when we can find no logic to the bond. These are the objects that we keep close, that have a personal value far beyond their monetary worth.

In the introduction Mark Edmonds shares his belief that

…we make sense of the world, tell the stories of our lives, through the things we make and use, those we give and receive, and the stuff that otherwise sticks to us. We shore up our uncertainties with objects that help us remember and which keep us safe.

Objects carry a story, or perhaps the echo of a story just out of reach. Edmonds argues persuasively that many of the objects, even the most mundane

have biographies as complex as our own. Indeed, if some of them could speak, and if we could understand them, they would probably tell us that we are simply passing through their stories.


Touching on issues of time and memory and the place, this beautifully designed book celebrates Garner’s relationship (his obsession) with his objects and captures the imaginative journey  through family history, archaeology, folklore, anthropology and literature that they have inspired. This book is not only for those interested in the work of Alan Garner, but for anyone interested in the intersection of the past and present, how writers work, creativity, history and ideas.

A book of objects captured with poetic clarity. This is a book that confirms the quiet guidance that small things may bring to our lives.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Beauty Things by Mark Edmonds & Alan Garner

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