Private language has become a defining feature of Garner's fiction, as has regional dialect in its undiluted form. Garner nowadays regards his early novels as "fairly bad", and is particularly embarrassed about having simplified his beloved Cheshire dialect as if it were "some kind of music-hall act". Thursbitch corrects this supposed flaw with plenty of hard-core vernacular. "Oh, thee hoe thy taters", "Powsels and thrums" – these and many more erect a linguistic Pennine barrier between most of us and the (already perplexing) historical episodes. Characterisation is deliberately thin, to emphasise the superiority of ancient landscape to the ant-like humans who crawl across it.

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