One dark and stormy night in 1956, a stranger named Fludd mysteriously turns up in the dismal village of Fetherhoughton. He is the curate sent by the bishop to assist Father Angwin - or is he? In the most unlikely of places, a superstitious town that understands little of romance or sentimentality, where bad blood between neighbors is ancient and impenetrable, miracles begin to bloom. No matter how copiously Father Angwin drinks while he confesses his broken faith, the level of the bottle does not drop. Although Fludd does not appear to be eating, the food on his plate disappears. Fludd becomes lover, gravedigger, and savior, transforming his dull office into a golden regency of decision, unashamed sensation, and unprecedented action.
Knitting together the miraculous and the mundane, the dreadful and the ludicrous, Fludd is a tale of alchemy and transformation told with astonishing art, insight, humor, and wit.
©1989 Hilary Mantel (P)2011 W.F. Howes
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
“Not a word, not a word of love, Perhaps, she thought, he does not love in the ordinary way. God loves us, after all, He manifests it in cancer, cholera, Siamese twins. Not all forms of love are comprehensible, and some forms of love destroy what they touch.”
After devouring 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring Up the Bodies', I was ready for another Mantel. 'Fludd' is a small, tight irreverant novel about God, belief, love, faith, innocence and knowledge. There were segments of this novel where the threads of the narrative disengaged so much I was almost ready to drop the whole novel, but then Mantel would use that loose line to wrap the prose of the next couple pages around my head and choke me.
The novel was filled with amazing characters: a parish priest who no longer believes in God, but still believes in the Devil; a eczema stigmatitized nun attracted to her guardian angel (or devil?), a gang of bitchy, spiteful nuns, and the title character who might be an alchemist, an angel or a devil or all of the above. With 'Fludd', Mantel explores the silent and understated boundaries between faith and modernity, between innocence and knowledge, between good and evil.
While, for me, this didn't hit as hard as her last two novels, it was worth the read to see her early efforts at historical and literary inversion. Mantel is brilliant when she is crafting an uneasy story that flips your assumptions about history, morality, good and evil.
This is a delightfully sly story. The descriptions are so vivid you feel you are watching a movie. The characters are interesting and you care about their struggles. Having been pinched, poked and prodded by many a nun, I have full faith and confidence in the accuracy of the portrayals of convent life. I never met a priest as lovable as Father Angwin, except as portrayed in Hollywood movies, but then I never met a priest who had lost his faith. The title character of Fludd is a bit enigmatic, but his namesake was a medieval doctor and scholar as well as an astrologer and alchemist. He works a bit of human alchemy with kindness, wit and charm.
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