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Book Review: Marshland by Gareth E. Rees

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Rees, Gareth. E. (2013) Marshland – Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London Influx Press, London ISBN 978 0 9571693 9 5

Cocker spaniel by his side, Rees wanders the marshes of Hackney, Leyton and Walthamstow, avoiding his family and the pressures of life. He discovers a lost world of Victorian filter plants, ancient grazing lands, dead toy factories and tidal rivers on the edgelands of a rapidly changing city. Ghosts are his friends. As strange tales of bears, crocodiles, magic narrowboats and apocalyptic tribes begin to manifest themselves, Rees embarks on a psychedelic journey across time and into the dark heart of London. The Dabbler

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Marshland is a complex mix of detached journalism, intimate memoir, political satire, post-apocalyptic horror story and grungy graphic novel (with illustrations by artist Ada Jusic) woven in intricate patterns to produce a vivid perspective on the marshes of East London, it’s a perspective that’s at the same time both fantastical and, oddly believable.

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Marshland is a deep map of the East London marshes, a blend of local history, folklore and weird fiction, where nothing is quite as it seems.

Beginning with minor riffs into local history and events, then moving into what might be magical realism, he starts to reveal layers of mystery and excitement just beneath these ordinary parts of London. Moving further into fantasy, he oscillates between tales of every day life and apparent pure imagination. Then undercuts the reader’s perceptions by revealing that some of the fantastical elements were drawn from news reports. D. Higgins

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Meticulously researched, clever and thoughtful, Gareth Rees weaves his experiences and research on the past, present and future of Hackney marshes into a psychedelic mix of fact and fantasy. At times mystifying, bizarre and hilarious, Rees deftly explores his chosen corner of London with verve and imagination. It’s a virtuoso performance, inspiring, unique and strangely beautiful.

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Layered London, black, funny, marshy, full of horrible vigour and hidden channels. M. John Harrison

Marshland is essential reading – a psychedelic trip into London’s secret wilderness.’ John Rogers

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The end of the imaginative prose-scape is followed by an appendix describing his experimental method, a bibliography, and additional reading. Perhaps there’s method to the seeming madness after all?

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I enjoyed this book immensely.

I recommend it to any reader who enjoys a world revealed and seeing that world through other eyes; and who doesn’t require strict documented accuracy or a simple linear narrative.

Great Stuff!

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