Books: The Perfect Golden Circle
The Perfect Golden Circle
By Benjamin Myers
Bloomsbury, 2022 (hardcover RRP £16.99)
The human circle maker is a hugely divisive figure. He (that is not to forget his female counterparts) carries the phenomenon on his shoulders; his creations are to be worshipped but his artistry is to be decried by his cultish audience, his person libelled. He is the craftsman who silently works the moon-soaked fields of southern England, one who chooses to remain tight-lipped on his achievements and allow his unclaimed works to shape the faith of others. His actions invite three obvious questions: Who is he, both on the surface and inside? Why does he bother? What does he get from it? Benjamin Myers is not the first fiction writer to try and explore the possible answers, but with The Perfect Golden Circle he is easily the most successful.
The book takes us back to an alternate 1989 season and a long, hot summer that parches the fields of a fictionalised Wiltshire landscape. In this reality it is not the chuckling forms of Doug Bower and Dave Chorley leading an engrossed public on a merry dance, but two troubled outsiders with roots in the same village: former soldier Ivan Calvert and sometimes New Age traveller Redbone. They share big ambitions for the season; one that will condense six years of real-life crop circle development into a few short months. They hope to steadily build to a harvest-time curtain closer of unprecedented complexity and scale; one circle that will surpass all others: the ‘honeycomb triple helix’.
Tied together by the circle makers’ code of silence the pair weave their magic through the darkness of a gorgeously framed natural landscape. But don’t expect a singularly jolly romp down the tramlines. Even in the most beautiful corners of agricultural England the excesses, violence vulnerability and loneliness of the human condition are never far away. They constantly haunt the thoughts and words of Calvert and Redbone and those they stumble across in the early hours.
Slowly, through the routes of thought, dialogue and confrontation, Myers bares the souls of his circle makers. Their motivations are myriad: isolation, a love of nature, separation from the land, the spirit of place, myth-making, anti-capitalist perspectives on the authorship of art, rebellion against the British political class and, most wrenchingly of all, the overwhelming need to soothe broken hearts and shattered lives.
For any croppie prepared to entertain the idea that human circle makers are more than devils, The Perfect Golden Circle is a delightful read. Pseuds may quibble over Myers’ frequently inaccurate representation of circle making methodology and logistics, but this is irrelevant. What matters is his deserved status as a masterful storyteller, one who enlivens his readership through the detail and tenderness he affords his main characters. Indeed, Calvert and Redbone are, at heart, very similar to the circle makers of today … real people from the margins with emotions, strengths and failings. Without them and their code of silence there will be one fewer type of magic in this world. Should that day come we at least have The Perfect Golden Circle to remember them by.