Day 1105: Fludd

Cover for FluddAll of Hilary Mantel’s writing has some sort of edge, but I’m beginning to feel that I enjoy more her work that isn’t quite as satirical, her historical fiction, for example, as opposed to some of her earlier, blacker works. Fludd was written in 1989 and fits firmly into the latter category.

Mantel’s note states that she depicts a 1950’s-ish Catholic church that never existed, but having read her memoir, I would venture to say that there are seeds of her childhood both in the setting and in her depiction of the church.

Father Angwin is a well-meaning, old-fashioned sort of priest working in an ugly church stuffed with statues of saints in a dismal working-class town called Fetherhoughton. He has long ago lost his faith, but he is struggling along as best he can. The bishop, whom he calls His Corpulence, wants him to make the church more “relevant:” modernize the service and get rid of the saints. He also says he is sending Father Angwin a curate.

Although Father Angwin thinks the people need the saints, he reluctantly buries them in the church yard. Shortly thereafter, a man appears at the door of the presbytery whom everyone assumes is the curate. People find themselves confiding their innermost secrets to him. He never seems to eat, but his food disappears. No one can recall his face when he’s not there.

Sister Philomena is a young Irish nun in the convent. She was evicted from her Irish convent because her mother claimed her skin rash was stigmata, and she went along with it. Her days are tormented by Mother Perpetua, the terror of the convent. She also finds herself confiding in Fludd.

But who is Fludd? Is he the curate, a demon, an angel? In any case, he’s an agent for change.

I don’t think I understand Catholicism, or indeed any religion, well enough to grasp the theological issues or even everything Mantel is poking fun at. I think this novel would be a much more pointed weapon if read by a lapsed Catholic. Mantel claims to have seen a demon, and demons lurk throughout her work. This is a funny but peculiar one.

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4 thoughts on “Day 1105: Fludd

  1. Helen July 11, 2017 / 3:14 pm

    I’ve only read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, but I do want to try some of her other books. I’m not sure if this one sounds very appealing, though – I probably don’t understand Catholicism well enough either.

    • whatmeread July 11, 2017 / 6:27 pm

      So far as I can tell, her two novels about Thomas Cromwell are quite different from her others. However, she did write a HUGE novel about the French Revolution.

  2. Audra (Unabridged Chick) July 13, 2017 / 8:19 am

    Oooh, I need to read this — as a recovering Catholic, I love Catholic fiction, and this sounds delightful. (Also, working around folks who are in seminary/have gone to seminary, I love learning how human clergy are!).

    • whatmeread July 13, 2017 / 9:31 am

      You would probably get some things out of it that I missed. Religion is kind of a black hole with me.

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