Mike Parker, On The Red Hill (Penguin/ Random House, 2019)


If I’d known the Mike Parker who wrote ON THE RED HILL was the Mike Parker from TV I might not have bought the book. But I’m glad I did. Mike and his boyfriend meet an elderly gay couple, George & Reg, become friends with them and inherit their house when they die. The book is an account of those lives, covering over a century between them, in the wider social and historical context of changing attitudes to homosexuality in the UK and in tension with how those lives are lived in their particulars, and not in the metropolis but in a small village in Wales. Each chapter in the book is divided into an element, a season, a cardinal direction and a person (thus Air, Spring, East, Reg). When it began with dense and lengthy descriptions of woods, and flowers and trees and moss and funghi I almost dropped it. But I persevered. Two homosexual Englishmen in rural Wales, one of German-Polish origin, makes for a fascinating story of lives lived on various kinds of margins, and the author weaves many explorations onto it (eg. Welsh history, migration, language, homosexual oppression, Foster and Carpenter, the ladies of Llangollen). I would have liked to have known more about George & Reg and less about the house and the landscape. But people who feel more attached to houses, gardens and nature than I might feel different.

José Arroyo

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