The Field of the Cloth of Gold
Magnus Mills’s latest book takes place in an unnamed land with a handful of settlers living in tents. Hen, it is widely acknowledged, was the first to arrive. Soon came the narrator, followed by Isabella, and then Thomas. The meadow (or field, as some characters refer to their land) is lush and beautiful, bordered by a river and forest where most people leave well enough alone. Soon, however, the original settlers are forced to reckon with newcomers–with more arriving every few days. Their days are disrupted, normal routines are thrown off kilter, and everyone tries to adjust to an ever-changing reality on the meadow.
Mills is a master storyteller, with an often surreal worldview, prone to reducing human life to almost mundane levels. The Field is outside of normal time and place, but it functions as a fable for today’s world on many levels, touching on themes of immigration, ownership, heritage, and cultural and personal identity. Mills gives full attention to the smallest conversational aside or odd gesture. No slight is ever overlooked, as each character tries to discern his or her place in the meadow. Though this work is somewhat less engaging than Mills’s past novels, it still cuts to the bone.