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THE HOPKINS CONUNDRUM | BOOK REVIEW

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Book Review

Simon Edge (Lightning Books)

One of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s most famous poems is The Wreck of the Deutschland and it’s from this that Simon Edge has taken his inspiration. Edge cleverly weaves three narratives together to form the novel. One part of the plot involves the tale of the 19th century nuns involved in the shipwreck; another is told from Hopkins’s perspective and the final strand is in the present day and depicts a struggling English landlord in a Welsh pub.

Tim, the pub landlord, has the notion that he could get a thriller writer to come and drum up trade in the area through Grail seekers looking for clues in Hopkins’s poem. Aside from the light-hearted satire, the story allows a deep appreciation for Hopkins and the conflicts he faced in his religious and personal life. With enough nods to the complexity and foresight involved in his poetry, the book maintains a sense of literary credibility but without being bogged down with criticism and technicality to isolate those unfamiliar with the poet.

Edge’s own writing has a lyrical quality to it, which fits well with the tone of the narrative. His witty observations, including calling the Jesuit house Hopkins lived in, “St Vowelless” are apt, considering the ignorance some have regarding Welsh pronunciation. However, despite this mocking, the overarching tone is a fondness for Wales and the Welsh, revealed in the beauty of the landscape and the local curmudgeon, Alun, the only regular customer. The novel is fast paced and the alternating narratives which incorporate both fact and fiction, allow for an interesting, as well as imaginative, study into how the past can still reach into the present.

Price: £8.99. Info: www.eye-books.com

words LUCY MENON

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