Monday, 20 June 2011

Review:- Hilary MANTEL – “Fludd”

Year Published: - 1989
Where the book was from:- My own copy
Pages: - 186pp
Genre: - General Fiction, Comedy, Religion, Fantasy
Location:- A fictitious Derbyshire village
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** **

One sentence summary:- The arrival of a new Roman Catholic curate in the 1950s Derbyshire village of Fetherhoughton causes a variety of mysterious changes, one might almost say miracles, to occur.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Father Angwin is a recalcitrant old bugger whose defiance of the Bishop appears to come to an end when he removes a host of statues from the church at the Bishop’s request. In the nearby convent Sister ‘Purpiture’ (i.e., Perpetua) is happily wielding her cane among the schoolchildren and her prodding forefinger among the nuns. Then along comes Fludd…

General comments:- ‘Fludd’ has sat for some years now on my ‘to be read’ shelf (and at times relegated to the ‘to be read’ boxes in the loft). At last I have got around to reading it. I can’t imagine what took me so long. At times hilarious, always mysterious, there is a moral in the tale somewhere. I think it is that love can transcend all, even in the darkest and strangest of universes.


The first event of autumn was the snowfall that blocked the pass that led through the moors to Yorkshire; this was generally accounted a good thing.

…the women liked to stand on their doorsteps. This standing was what they did. Recreational pursuits were for men: football, billiards, keeping hens.

Mother Perpetua would tell the children, with her famous, dangerously sweet smile: “We have no objection to Protestants worshipping God in their own way. But we Catholics prefer to worship Him in his.”

Purpit was a stumpy woman, of middle years – it is not proper to speculate about the exact age of nuns.

When Father Angwin saw the holes…he said to himself…if God knows our ends, why cannot he prevent them… Then he remembered that he did not believe in God…

In considering the life of Christ, there is something that has often made me wonder, did the man who owned the Gadarene swine get compensation?

And if you can accept the preposterous notion of a living creator who gives a bugger about every sparrow that falls, why jib at the rest of it? Why jib at rosaries and relics and fasting and abstinence? Why swallow a camel and strain at a gnat?

Up there (in Netherhoughton) they were still gossiping about the Abdication; not that of Edward VIII, but that of James II.

Christ died to free us from the burden of our sin, but he never, so far as she could see, lifted a finger to free us from our stupidity.

AUTHOR Notes:- Hilary Mantel was born inHadfield, Derbyshire, in 1952 and spent her early years at the same village school as her mother and grandmother. She then went to a Cheshire convent school (which obviously gave her much material for ‘Fludd’), the LSE and Sheffield University. She lived in Africa and the Middle East for ten years and published her first novel ‘Every Day is Mother’s Day’ in 1985. ‘Fludd’ was awarded the Winifred Holtby Prize, the Cheltenham Festival Prize and the Southern Arts Literature Award.

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