Towards the Gleam - A Review

Just occasionally a book comes along that grasps the reader from the first page, but often disappoints by the time the denouement is reached. T.M. Doran’s ‘Toward the Gleam’ with its sub-Tolkienesque dust-cover, certainly holds the attention from its first words. Indeed Doran’s expert and gradual unveiling of the plot builds the tension to the point that the book is impossible to put down. When the end comes this tension is broken, in the final pages, by one of the most satisfying, and unanticipated twists of narrative.

A fictional account of course, but we guess early on who John Hill, Doran’s hero is. A philologist with children called John, Michael, Christopher and Priscilla it is hardly a leap of logic to see that here we have the Tolkien family. His use of Mr. Hill is particularly amusing to those who remember Mr. Underhill so vividly, and Strider’s words at the Prancing Pony, “A matter of some importance — to us both… you may hear something to your advantage”. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that in this intriguing story, John Hill discovers something to his disadvantage.

Doran’s premise is quite straightforward. John Hill stumbles — in the darkness of a cave — upon a beautifully crafted box which contains a red book of several thousand pages of the finest paper. One might go so far as to say, “A riddle in the dark” Ring any bells? And quite simply he decides to try to decipher the runes and discover the origin of the long lost civilisation of which it was part.

Starting in 1917 when he makes his momentous discovery, John’s quest takes him across Europe to confer with colleagues and scholars, some of whom it seems seek his destruction. We are introduced, in passing, to Jack and Owen in the ‘Bird and Baby’ in Oxford, together with the merest echo of Sauron, in the terrifying presence of John’s adversary in his quest.

Many adjectives have been used to describe the sweep of this novel: Intriguing, moving, mysterious, startling, ingenious, horrifying, imaginative and inventive. I would go so far as to say that if you are a fan of Tolkien’s sub-creation, this book is a must read. Not only will it amuse and entertain, it will drive you back to the “Red Book of Westmarch” itself. Wonderful.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved this one, too. Tell me, who was the real life counter part for "Drake"? He was the only one I couldn't figure out....

Roger R... said...

Only in the mind of the author... as far as I can see.

Anonymous said...

Thanks--I've been trying to puzzle that one out for days. :)

Brer said...

I am not sure, but the impression I had was that it might have been Winston Churchill; see his cigars and service record before he was Prime Minister.

Anonymous said...

I didn't quite like this book at first but that I realized it was about Tolkien himself. It is amazing.