I would argue that this is more novella than novel (191 half pages), but that is really the only critical complaint I can muster. It as a bit sleep inducing at times (extensive description with masturbatory overtones on the part of the author), but the language was very beautiful and Harding did manage to pull together a 3-generational story of profound sadness and misunderstanding, similarities, and class change with remarkable conciseness.
Full of themes and symbolism, I could discuss for hours, but I'm going to just hit on some of my favorites moments/passages/thoughts below.
The story opens with George (the dying man) thinking about his house (the one he built) falling in; a bit over the top, but certainly specific symbolism as his life falls in on him. He is not lucid, but he is conscious of what is happening to him. Also, there were some moments both near the beginning: "The toxins leaking from his cancer-clogged kidneys into his thickening and darkening blood" and the end: the dark blood retreated from his limbs. First, it left his feet, then his lower legs. Then it left his hands..." that reminded me of Jim Crace's Being Dead. I just adore the graphic description of his failing body as a parallel to the imagined implosion of the house.
In conjunction with the house we have George's clockworks to run in parallel to his failing body (and Harold's epileptic fits and his father's failing mind). The excerpts from the Horologist's manual are quite amusing. Specifically, Ctesibius of Alexandria's clock with the water was very reminiscent of the blood passages quoted above.
I adored the way that George's attempt to run away (as a child) foreshadowed Harold's leaving upon discovering that his wife was going to send him to a mental institution. Of course, the pivotal point in the novel is Harold's revelation in Chapter 3 of his own father's institutionalization. Ironically, Harold never reveals any of this to George, despite his big complaint about Kathleen harboring negative thoughts and keeping things to herself. Perfectly believable and expected that Megan (Howard's new wife) is a complete chatterbox.
In describing his misconceptions about Kathleen, Howard describes the importance of perspective (one of my personal favorite topics): "Is it not true: A move of the head, a step to the left or right, and we change from wise, decent, loyal people to conceited fools? Light changes, our eyes blink and see the world from the slightest difference of perspective and our place in it has changed infinitely..His despair came from the fact that his wife saw him as a fool, as a useless tinker, a copier of bad verse from two-penny religious magazines, an epileptic, and could find no reason to turn her head and see him as something better."
The last parallel I will note here is the sidebar on Sabbatis and Red/Old Red. Harold has the consciousness to note that Red becomes Old Red as Sabbatis departs and the "In becoming Old Red, he seemed to relinquish himself as a particular man and become the embodiment of some eternal thing that itself stood outside of time and whose existence as any given person was merely circumstantial." Clearly, we see the lone town Native American guide as a representative and iconic figure. Less clearly (but certainly implied with the story and its placement), we see Harold become his father as he leaves his family.