The Fearful

Keith Gray



Aug 2006

‘For those who want to believe, no proof is needed. But for those who can’t believe, no evidence is enough.’

The furthest fathoms and deepest depths of the lake at Moutonby are matched by the probing philosophical enquiries as to the roles belief is able to play within modern civilisation. Is all belief now made blind by technological advance and the possibility of scientific verification?
The atmosphere of the novel crackles with a flaring, electrostatic energy that juxtaposes with the harsh unredeeming landscape of Moutonby. Favourable comparison to the celebrated works of Alan Garner is easily justified.
Underpinning village life in Moutonby – a small bleak assemblage of habitations clustered along the banks of the lake – is a dark legend about a beast that lurks in the depths of the water, the Mourn. Modern times have seen the village divided between those who believe in the Mourn ‘ termed the Fearful, their lives being driven and dictated by custom and ritual as they endeavour to assuage the beast’s fury ‘ and those who reject the legend believing it a pseudo-feudal means via which the Milmullen family have been able to dominate the village through false fear and hysteria.
Son and heir, Tim Milmullen, grows up alongside this and is expected to assume the role of the Mourner on his fast-approaching sixteenth birthday. This mantle is one his forefathers have held before him, making ritualistic sacrifices to the Mourn, securing the protection of the villagers through so doing. Tim is unsure as to his belief, a fact brought into rapid relief by his twin sister’s own fervently held beliefs. The questions surrounding the Mourn isolate Tim from his family and from the community who increasingly come to depend on him for their future.
A particular achievement in the novel, alongside the means by which belief is charted against fear of that which is not easily understood and which is seemingly senseless, is the constant challenges that twins Tim and Jenny pose to traditional belief. This emphasises that regardless as to the polar extremes the two’s views take, both are founded on their own level of experience, of thought and consideration of stimuli that their lives have been presented with. These questions and indeed the eventual resolve arrived at is an important facet of their growth and development, one that in a world that is increasingly geared to the materialistic, is oft neglected yet deserving of careful consideration. Even disbelief is a belief that must be arrived upon through experience, if it is a standpoint arrived at responsively…
This is a dense, thoughtful and thought-provoking novel that demands careful reading providing ample reward through its sociological and implicit religious comment as well as its lithe determination to avoid the condemnation of any systems of belief or world views.

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