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Fludd: A Novel Paperback – June 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Owl Books ed edition (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805062734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805062731
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Fetherhoughton, the shabby and provincial village of Hilary Mantel's fifth novel, Fludd, possesses a charm that is, at best, latent. The surrounding moorland is foreboding, the populace is querulous and ill-educated, and the presiding priest is an atheist. It's 1956, and drabness is general to this English backwater. Until, that is, the appearance of a disarming young priest who, apparently, has been dispatched to wrest Fetherhoughton out of its superstitious stupor. One of the novel's several wonders is that Fludd surpasses all expectations.

Father Angwin, Fetherhoughton's disbelieving priest, has--much to the displeasure of his superiors--grown comfortable with the entrenched, misapprehending devoutness of his flock. Fludd, who may or may not be the curate sent to deliver the wayward, exerts an immediate, if unexpected, influence. He intrigues the townspeople, flusters the church's gaggle of nuns, kindles a welcome self-examination in Father Angwin, and arouses the passion of the young and yearning Sister Philomena. A charge of possibility suddenly animates the village, accompanied by several incidents that seem midway between coincidence and miracle. Fludd, however, remains beset by an insistent disillusionment--his clarity, it seems, arcs outward only.

Mantel's cramped and pliant village is a marvel. Fetherhoughton "wrestles not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world," insists the dour headmistress, Mother Perpetua. A local tobacconist, not so trivially, just might be the devil in human garb. Fludd's gift lies in unearthing all the lovely and fearsome truths buried just beneath the surface. "The frightening thing is that life is fair," he observes, "but what we need... is not justice but mercy." The fruits of this conviction, in Fetherhoughton, are rebellion, self-assertion, and even scandal; but Mantel's lovely tale suggests that difficult possibility is fair compensation for a sloughed predictability. --Ben Guterson

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published in 1989 in the U.K., Mantel's slim, intense novel displays the author's formidable gift for illuminating the darker side of the human heart, offering metaphoric and literal incarnations of the powerful central images of Catholicism. Her circa-1956 setting of Fetherhoughton, a provincial English village surrounded on three sides by gloomy moors, is stark and dreary, a dead end where unwanted people are unceremoniously dumped. Such is the case of Sister Philomena, a sturdy farm girl-turned-nun banished from an Irish convent because her sister Kathleen breaks convent rules. It becomes apparent that Philomena will not fit in anywhere, as she is a strange mix of innocence and knowledge, a sage romantic. Philomena finds an unlikely confidant in Father Angwin, the parish priest, who has lost his faith, thinks the town tobacconist is the devil and fears the threat of a youthful replacement for his post. When a rain-soaked man named Fludd arrives on a stormy night, Angwin assumes it is the newly appointed curate, but even so, the two become close friends and, in time, Angwin sheds his bitterness and paranoia to become a more compassionate, wiser person. Fludd sweeps the nosy housekeeper, Agnes, off her feet with his gentlemanly manners and cool confidence, but Philomena is also strangely attracted to the devilish Fludd, who magically transforms everyone he meets. The monstrous Mother Perpetua, headmistress of the St. Thomas Aquinas School, is the lone exception, and she ends up being a key player in the rural face-off between good and evil. Hawthornden Prize-winner Mantel (The Giant, O'Brien) uses her knack for dry wit and lovely, scene-setting detail to liven up crisp, utilitarian prose, revealing, as her characters do, the ever-surprising divine in the mundane. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Hilary Mantel is the author of nine previous novels, including A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, and Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. She has also written a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Winner of the Hawthornden Prize, she reviews for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books. She lives in England.

Customer Reviews

Great characters, often hilariously funny, and superlatively wise.
Nancy P
I read this in paperback about 10 years ago and tho' I had forgotten details, I still remember it as one of my favorite books.
Amazon Customer
I am still chewing (much as Fludd spent much of the book chewing without seeming to eat anything).
Chapati

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Haschka TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The doleful, English, mill town of Fetherhoughton is the stage for this short, delightful novel, FLUDD, by Hilary Mantel. There are four principal players. Father Angwin, pastor of the Roman Catholic church of St. Thomas Aquinas, has lost his belief in God's existence, but determinedly continues to serve his flock while suffering the oversight of his idiot diocesan bishop. Miss Dempsey, his spinster housekeeper, lives in terror of a small wart above her upper lip, thinking it a portent of cancer. Sister Philomena, a nun teaching in the parish school, is an Irish girl forced by her family into the convent, where she endures the petty tyranny of its Mother Superior. Then there's FLUDD, a curate ostensibly sent by the obnoxious bishop to help Angwin modernize his pastoral approach. Or is he? Once Fludd is in residence, people begin to ... transform.
The engaging aspect of this story is that the reader never understands the nature of the being called Fludd, a mystery also grazing Angwin's perception during his first meal with Fludd, when the former observed:
"Whenever (he) looked up at (Fludd), it seemed that his whiskey glass was raised to his lips, but the level of what was in it did not seem to go down; and yet from time to time the young man reached out for the bottle, and topped himself up. It had been the same with their late dinner, there were three sausages on Father Fludd's plate, and he was always cutting into one or other, and spearing a bit on his fork; he was always chewing in an unobtrusive, polite way, with his mouth shut tight. And yet there were always three sausages on his plate, until at last, quite suddenly, there were none."
Is Fludd a man, or something ... else. He can tell fortunes by looking at the palm of one's hand.
Read more ›
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62 of 67 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This extraordinary work in her earlier, lighter style is more accessible than "A Change of Climate." Its eponynous character is a priest -- or is he? Sent to assist a priest in a northern English parish, Fludd engages the Catholic community in unusual ways. The author's signature clarity and dark humor are consistently evident, both in the limning of parish personalities and in the ways in which Fludd brings about his transformations. There is an episode that is perhaps the closest Mantel has ever come to a sex scene, handled with utter delicacy. "Fludd" is a bravura performance and resoundingly satisfying, and it's a pity it has never been released on this side of the pond.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Judith Miller VINE VOICE on January 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a most unusual story, and I hardly know how to
describe what I've read. It reminds me of so many
British films that I've seen over the years where you
never know exactly what's going on, but you like it
anyway.
In FLUDD we're presented with an obscure town in England
called Fetherhoughton. This is not your lovely little
English village where the characters of Rosamund Pilcher
live. No, this seems to be a dark and depressing place
which is surrounded by moors. Within this town there is
a church located next to a convent of nuns. The parish
priest, Father Angwin is a seemingly kind man who has a
problem with faith: he has lost his. His very
disagreeable Bishop is always after Father Angwin to
make changes and modernize his church. In fact,
the Bishop makes some ridiculous demands which the
parish fulfills and then insinuates that Father Angwin
needs assistance. Enter Father Fludd who apparently is
the new curate and has come to rescue the church and
the people of Fetherhoughton.
Father Angwin, his housekeeper, Agnes Dempsey, and the
young Irish nun, Sister Philomena all need help in one way
or other. Then, there is the very sinister Judd McEvoy
who runs the town's tobacco shop. He appears to cast a
dark cloud over everything. Father Fludd definitely
makes a difference, but who is he and where does he
come from? None of the other characters seem able
to describe the mysterious Fludd.
A story unlike any other. An excellent read!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Chapati VINE VOICE on May 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
Do you ever get that feeling when reading a book that you're a part of something special and very important, but you aren't entirely sure that you can grasp the entirety of what the author is presenting to you? That is the feeling I had with Fludd. It didn't seem as though there was much plot to the book until the very end, and then all at once I was finished and was left feeling as though I had read everything closely but had somehow missed The Big Picture.

The book is about religion and faith and the positive and negative effects the two can have on people. But there is so much more to it. Symbolism, I might say, up the wazoo. There are statues and nuns and obscure questions of faith ("If one uses dripping to cook on a Friday during Lent, is that considered eating meat?"). A never-ending carafe of whiskey. A priest who claims disbelief in God to Fludd, but who then says that the devil lives in Netherhoughton. (Can you believe in the devil but not in God? Is that not depressing?) And then, the biggest enigma of them all, there is Fludd.

He arrives and miracles happen. No one can really describe what his face looks like. He appears to finish the food on his plate, but no one ever sees him put food in his mouth. He doesn't seem to do much of anything, but he comes and he goes and things are different. His name, at the least, suggests a great deal about him.

I realize that I haven't so much reviewed this book as made oblique references to how much it has remained in my mind after I finished reading it. Isn't that a stellar review in and of itself? I should think most authors want readers to continue chewing over their stories after reading the last word. I am still chewing (much as Fludd spent much of the book chewing without seeming to eat anything). But I think I know enough about my reaction to recommend the book- it is a misleading slim volume, but it will stay with you after you're done.
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