Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The White Goddess: An Encounter - Simon Gough

‘What was I frightened of? Of memories. Of the past – Of going back.’

The precise nature of this book is best summed up using the author’s own words in his introductory note: ‘This is a fragment of autobiography written in narrative form in order to breathe new life into a remarkable story which occurred over fifty years ago.’ So we have a combination of autobiographical events and real people yet with an element of fictional writing.

The very first sentence is incredibly striking. We are introduced to the spark behind the book being written. Then we are taken back to 1953, when Simon Gough went to Majorca in 1953 as a ten-year-old boy embarking on an adventure. There, in Deya, a place which is evoked so well here, he will encounter his ‘Grand-Uncle’ Robert, who we know as the author and poet Robert Graves. A picture builds of his reaction to and relationship with him, and with other compelling characters he spends his days with. He returns in 1960 and finds the place changed, liking it even more. In later years we learn of his falling in love with Margot Callas, Robert’s muse. This is a long book, one that I took my time in reading, but it is certainly one that keeps you interested.

The prose is absolutely beautiful, and there were so many times I paused to re-read a certain passage, to mark it in order that I could return to it. Here is one such passage:

‘Memory – so innocent and na├»ve in itself, so potentially fatal when stirred, like the coiled snake that it was in its pluperfect lair. The past was not to be trifled with; while the present and future move d at their own irrevocable speeds, the past was time spent, time-without-energy, which could be moulded or stretched into infinite versions of remembered truth.’

I feel there is so much self-awareness and insight into how our lives are lived through the way the author looks back on his own life, reflecting on his younger days. There is a need to divulge his story, before it is too late. ‘I had a story to tell – a love story; a true love story. No one else would tell it now.’

The White Goddess: An Encounter is the first of two books from this author about his relationship with his great-uncle Robert Graves and the related events in his life.

Published by Galley Beggar Press

Reviewed by Lindsay Healy

This is the first book from new publishing company, Galley Beggar Press, based in Norfolk.

Find out more about the background to this new publishing company here.

Thank you very much to the publisher for kindly sending a copy of this novel to read and review.


  1. This books sounds great...thanks so much. Love those quotes

    I will check out the publisher too.

    Silver's Reviews
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    1. Thanks very much for visiting and commenting Elizabeth. I'm glad you like the quotes I picked out. So well written.


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