Ouch! Before Hilary Mantel got into trouble over her portrayal of Thomas Moore in Wolf Hall, she must have copped flak from Catholics over this one. It is set in 1950’s Britain in a small town seemingly occupied by total dullards. The story revolves around Father Angwin who has lost his faith and is struggling with modernisation of the Church. He is connected to the local Nuns who run a school with the customary amount of Nunnish corporal punishment. He battles with his Bishop using sarcasm and rudeness. While his faith in God has gone, he considers that the local tobacconist is the the Devil.
Into this mix comes Fludd who, everyone assumes is Father Angwin’s new curate. But he is a mysterious fellow in whose presence people tell the truth and reveal their true characters. People, however, cannot remember what he looks like once he has left their presence.
The writing is terrific (it is Hilary Mantel) and there is a lot of humour in the novel. The questions put to Father Angwin on the detail of Catholic requirements provide a lot of fun – “May meat drippings be used to fry fish on Fridays?”
This book won’t be for everyone but for me it was a bit of light comedy.