Fludd by Hilary Mantel

This short novel is a comedy which has gained a larger readership because of the huge success of Wolf Hall. Hilary Mantel attended a Roman Catholic primary school and this formative experience may have influenced this work. The text has little respect for faith and its slightly cynical outlook mocks characters who are made absurd by the difficulties of observing religious practices in a changing world.

Mantel sometimes tries to show compassion to her creations, but her efforts to be amusing make this intention problematic. Arguably, there is a lack of awareness that secular cultured people also struggle to give their lives meaning, structure, and consistency. An air of superiority haunts the book.

There is nothing offensive in Fludd, but the sombre community does not really come alive. Atheism may be a logical philosophical position, but novels which seem to pour scorn on religious behaviour are not automatically compelling. The crudeness of the narrative is also irritating:

“…Tommy, I thought I could spot one a mile off, I’ve never seen such a bloody strange-looking tart in twenty years in the hotel trade.”

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