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Red Hill
One of the great perks of organising a Literature Festival is the number of literary gems that come our way in the shape of pitches, book submissions and pre-release copies from participating authors.

“On the Red Hill” is a particularly apt read for me. Like the author I was drawn to the Welsh countryside and culture, an ‘outsider’ who married a ‘local’ and found a true home in an unlikely place.

This is what happened not only to Mike Parker, but also to the much older couple he befriended and about whose house on the Red Hill he writes.
It is a beautiful, lyrical, entertaining and moving book, multi-layered and fragmented into chapters dedicated to seasons, elements and people.

Going through the diaries of the by now deceased previous owners and adding his and his partner’s own experiences of living in rural Wales as a gay couple this makes a beautiful caleidoscope of sentiment, charm and wit.
Mike Parker c. MPAgain, for me there were added parallels as I have been on the political campaign trail in Ceredigion in 2017; Mike Parker did the same in 2015 – although at the time both on opposing camps. Mike lost as Plaid candidate to the Liberals, I lost as Liberal campaigner
to our Plaid opponents.

But we share a love for the country, its people and peculiarities, probably have quite similar interests and ideals. I was pleased to find his journalistic background adding to rather than distorting the more lyrical and thoughtful side of the novel. This is a wonderful read and I hope to catch Mike at the festival to get his signature in my proof copy.

Here is the official synopsis:

A multi-layered memoir of love, acceptance, finding home and the redemptive power of nature. In early 2006, Mike Parker and his partner Peredur were witnesses at the first civil partnership ceremony in the small Welsh town of Machynlleth. The celebrants were their friends Reg and George, who had moved to deepest rural Wales in 1972, not long after the decriminalisation of homosexuality. When Reg and George died within a few weeks of each other in 2011, Mike and Peredur discovered that they had been left their home: a whitewashed `house from the children’s stories’, buried deep within the hills. They had also been left a lifetime’s collection of diaries, photographs, letters and books, all revealing an extraordinary history. On the Red Hill is the story of Rhiw Goch, `the Red Hill’, and its inhabitants, but also the story of a remarkable rural community and a legacy that extends far beyond bricks and mortar. On The Red Hill celebrates the turn of the year’s wheel, of ever-changing landscapes, and of the family to be found in the unlikeliest of places. Taking the four seasons, the four elements and these four lives as his structure, Mike Parker creates a lyrical but clear-eyed exploration of the natural world, the challenges of accepting one’s place in it, and what it can mean to find home.

Publisher: Cornerstone
https://www.waterstones.com/book/on-the-red-hill/michael-parker/9781785151934

ISBN: 9781785151934
Number of pages: 400

 

MEDIA REVIEWS

“On the Red Hill is an extraordinary book: brave and ground-breaking. It is far more than a queer and Welsh Howards End. Gossipy, inquisitive, confessional, lyrical, elegiac and camp-ly witty by turns, Parker offers us an unexpected and important meditation on change and on belonging, presenting four different gay lives associated with a single house. He shows us what it is that makes these lives matter.” — Peter J. Conradi
“A marvellous book. It is an uplifting tale of tranquillity sought and found in the nearest Britain gets to paradise.” — Simon Jenkins
“Structurally innovative, linguistically precise, and emotionally enervating, On the Red Hill is a praise-poem to adventure, belonging, the power of nature and, above all, to the resilience of human beings and the love between them. Parker’s great strength and passion is in illuminating certain hidden strata of these islands, in the unearthing and re-telling of stories silenced by the forces of political history; here, he applies those talents to his own biography, and to some of those blessed enough to share it. He has produced a beautiful, immersive and – in these testing times – vital and necessary book.” — Niall Griffiths
“Ostensibly set in one house in rural Wales, there are worlds on worlds within this lyrical and profoundly cultured book. In an age of toxic artifice, this is the most necessary medicine: the tenderness of reality and the living, elemental, world.” — Jay Griffiths
“On the Red Hill is a beautifully crafted journey into the most intimate space the author can possibly share- his home. The story of Rhiw Goch and its inhabitants is an intricately woven celebration and acknowledgment of life in modern rural Wales, always gripping, often romantic but never sentimental. This is the story of four men, two couples, one house, and the benevolent presence of Rhiw Goch is the protagonist in this story. The seasons colour the pages in vivid greens and deep russets, and the closeness to nature is raw and honest. The footpaths, streams and trees that surround the house are ever-present, even when Mike Parker is covering topics as diverse as the Second World War, trends in photography, and the gay history of Wales. There is a flow to this book which is in turn fascinating, funny, moving and touching. Mike Parker has long established himself as the master of capturing Wales, having managed time and time again to map the contours and cultures of the country with his words. With On the Red Hill, he surpasses himself. This is the truest version of modern Welsh life I have ever read.” — Manon Steffan Ros
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