HOW LONG IS FOREVER?
The Eternity Ring is short novel - neither a children's book nor a book for adults - it's simply a story. More of a novella really but it's the same kind of length as Ted Hughes' The Iron Man and that's officially a novel... there are worse places to take your cues.
The Eternity Ring is the story of a boy who grows up under the influence of a man he fleetingly met only once - but why should a meeting that was fleeting in the extreme, influence every single day of an entire life?
Sometimes, all you have to do is live long enough to find out.
WHAT THE PEOPLE SAY:
"One of my favourite reads from school was Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee, a vivacious memoir of a young boy’s life. I was an incredibly imaginative lad, for better and for worse, and Lee’s magical account of his war era childhood, and the characters that punctuated such, very much resonated with me. Sion Smith’s The Eternity Ring has a lot in common with Lee’s memoir both in terms of tone and style.
The story follows its narrator, an average boy who becomes obsessed by crows after witnessing something quite fantastical, involving the birds, down by the lake close to where he lives. We follow the boy through to manhood and eventually old age, the birds never far from view. And just like ‘Cider’, the seemingly ordinary takes on an extraordinary quality all of its own when seen through the narrator’s eyes. There’s a magical sway to this story with the crows taking on an almost shamanic quality after being tattooed onto the narrator’s skin. The events that transpire thereafter could be interpreted as supernatural, yet despite this, with an accessible writing style, and working class protagonist, Smith succeeds in keeping the essence of his story quite grounded.
I read The Eternity Ring in one sitting. It’s an enigmatic and engaging book that you’ll find hard-pushed to put down once you start. There’s a dark fairy tale quality about the novella that I really enjoyed - and just like all good fairy tales, its resolution proves both satisfying and mystifying."
CURIOUS? HERE'S AN EXTRACT:
They say that he used to be a spy but that must have been a very long time ago because now, he simply looked like an old man. And he was an old man, certainly over eighty. He wasn’t bent though. He stood up straight and proud even though his clothes suggested he had long since fallen on hard times.
I had been reading on the edge of the lake - that old Erich Kästner classic Emil and the Detectives in case you’re interested - when I first spotted him. There was nothing else to do out here in the summer holidays, but that was fine by me. In my bag, I had a towel and already wore my swimming trunks under my trousers. Swimming in the lake and reading was all I had to look forward to for the next two weeks. That and eating ham and pickle sandwiches that my mother made for me every morning before she went to work.
I had seen him a few times before in the village but that was nothing special. Everybody in the village had seen him at some time in their life. Nobody though, and I really mean nobody, had ever spoken to him. At least nobody that I knew or anybody that anyone I knew had either.
He looked as though he was striding towards me with purpose. I buried my head further in the book and read the part about the pinholes for what must be the hundredth time. Perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps he was simply working his way around the lake. Maybe he was looking for something to eat or something that he had lost because he was certainly looking for something.
I let my eyes follow him for a while, head down and looking up through my eyebrows and hoping he couldn’t see me. It occurred to me that if he had once been a spy, my stealth would be rather in vain.
He stopped and sat on one of the old wooden railway sleepers that were dotted around the lake every so often and I wondered what sort of a spy he might have been. Was it possible to have different kinds of spies? All I really knew about spies was from James Bond films and as much as I hoped real life spying was actually like that, even at twelve years old I could guess that it probably wasn’t - aside from the part where you got shot at if the enemy ever found out who you really were. I thought that might be quite likely.
Shortly, he took his long coat off and laid it on the floor. A large black bird appeared by his side and appeared to be quite comfortable sitting next to him as they both looked out across the water. I envied him. No birds or animals ever came near me, so I watched with much curiosity as the two of them relaxed against the backdrop of the great hills. I dropped my face properly into my book again, not wanting to disturb him and more so, not wanting him to see me looking. I actually read to the end of the chapter before I looked up again. When I did he was rolling up the sleeves of his shirt and more birds appeared, perhaps six or seven more - some to one side of him, some on the other. I blinked and in that super-short moment of time in which my eyes were closed, the number of birds had doubled.