My Uncle Silas

by H. E. Bates

Other authorsEdward Ardizzone (Illustrator)
Paper Book, 1984





Port Townsend, Wash. : Graywolf Press, 1984.


Drama set in pre-World War I England. Ten year old Edward (Prospero) goes to the countryside to spend the summer with his lovable Uncle Silas (Finney), who is described by his adult relatives as "a drunkard, sinner, non-conformist lecher."

User reviews

LibraryThing member devenish
'My Uncle Silas' and the companion volume 'Sugar for the Horse' contain between them the complete short stories about an old countryman,who lives in the heart of rural Bedfordshire.In them he tells a series of tall stories to a young lad,about his womanizing,fighting and the like.At the same time the evocation of the English countryside and life at the turn of the century are brilliantly brought to life.
'The Lily', the first story in this volume begins -
"My Great-uncle Silas used to live in a small reed-thatched cottage on the edge of a pine-wood,where nightingales sang passionately in great numbers through early summer nights and on into the mornings and often still in the afternoons. On summer days after rain the air was sweetly saturated with the fragrance of the pines,which mingled subtly with the exquisite honeysuckle scent,the strange vanilla heaviness from the creamy elder-flowers in the garden hedge with the perfume of old pink and white crimped-double roses of forgotten names.It was very quiet there except for the soft,water-whispering sound of leaves and boughs,and the squabbling and singing of birds in the house-thatch and the trees. The house itself was soaked with years of scents,half-sweet,half-dimly-sour with the smell of wood smoke,the curious odour of mauve and milk-coloured and red geraniums,of old wine and tea and the earth smell of my Uncle Silas himself."
Beautifully written throughout by a master of his craft,Bates seems woefully underrated today. Yet he is one of the finest exponents of the short story,indeed one who could not be bettered.Many of his fine tales are quite dark,but the 'Silas' stories are light and funny and are aided too by the superb illustrations of Edward Ardizzone.
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LibraryThing member Osbaldistone
These are not rip-roaring adventures. This is not Harry Potter. These are recollections by the narrator of his irrepressible grandfather, who told wild stories, never slowed down, loved a practical joke, loved the women, and pretty much lived his life as he wanted, regardless of convention.
If you enjoy putting yourself into an earlier time (late 1800s) and a place (rural England) that few people have experienced, this is what you should be reading. Some stories better than others, as usual with any collection, but Uncle SIlas will become a character you wish you had known.

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LibraryThing member featherwate
H E Bates published two collections of stories in which Uncle Silas reminisces about the pleasures of a long life spent bringing joy to the deserving (mostly himself and the women of Bedfordshire) and confounding the undeserving (authority, mostly). Cowslip wine, poaching and very large pigs loom large, as does fruit: raspberries, gooseberries, apples are all described with a lushness bordering on the erotic. Well, not so much bordering on as indistinguishable from. The recipient of these tales is Silas's young great-nephew, who moves from innocent faith in the old man's every word - however outrageous the event described - to a realisation that his escapades are for the most part exaggerations, if not downright inventions. He doesn't let on, of course: his faith gives way to secret admiration and delight in the endless inventiveness of a master storyteller. Edward Ardizzone's pen-and-ink illustrations provide the perfect accompaniment to the text.… (more)




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