The Hopkins Conundrum by Simon Edge
|The Hopkins Conundrum by Simon Edge|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Take a pub landlord, a Victorian poet, five nuns and a shipwreck and you have The Hopkins Conundrum – a warm, tragic and wonderfully written read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: May 2017|
|Publisher: Lightning Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Tim Cleverley inherits a failing pub in Wales, which he plans to rescue by enlisting an American pulp novelist to concoct an entirely fabricated mystery about Gerard Manley Hopkins, who composed The Wreck of the Deutschland nearby.
In Victorian England, Gerard Manley Hopkins lives a life full of confusion and contradiction, but discovers a calling for poetry that threatens to overrule his calling to God. And, speaking of God, Five nuns leave persecution to travel to a new world – only to find themselves in more trouble that they could ever have imagined…
Simon Edge is a British author – reading philosophy at Cambridge and working as an English Teacher in the Gaza Strip, before becoming editor of Capital Gay, a gossip columnist on the Evening Standard, a features writer for the Daily Express and a contributing editor at Attitude, amongst various other jobs at renowned literary establishments. Since leaving journalism he's worked in PR and as a political spin doctor.
The Hopkins Conundrum is his first novel – and it's a remarkable debut, cleverly blending three very separate strands into a story that's at turns witty, touching and romantic. The three strands stand apart as very separate stories, but work blissfully well together, providing a constant ebb and flow of light and shade throughout. Remarkably, no strand is better than the other – all immensely different but all extremely well written and full of fantastically drawn characters. A contemporary tale set in modern day Wales provides the backbone for the story – and Tim, Chloe and Alun are the characters who bring the element of comedy to this read, and their gentle tale is filled with romance, humour, and plenty of digs at the Da Vinci Code type books that began to flood the market in the last fifteen years or so. This strand links closely with that of Gerard Manley Hopkins – a Victorian poet who only achieved acclaim posthumously, and led a life filled with religion, doubt, and, it appears, struggles with his sexuality.
Edge doesn't allow this to weigh down the plot though – Hopkins is a sympathetic and layered character who is brought convincingly to life in chapters that balance the author's confused mental state with warmth and humour. He's not a poet I knew much about, but following this exploration of his life and the snippets of his poems featured here, he's one I'll be reading much more of in the future. One of Hopkins' most famous poems was The Wreck of the Deutschland – a poem inspired by a shipwreck in 1875 in which 157 people died – five of whom were Franciscan nuns. It's these Nuns, leaving behind religious persecution in Germany to travel to America, who form the final strand of the book, as the reader follows them as they embark on the voyage which proves to be their last. It's tragic – there is no denying that, but Edge treats these characters with an immense amount of dignity, filling them with life and character in the moments before their untimely death.
None of the plot strands directly influence the shape of the other, but all flow wonderfully well together, creating an overall story that's immensely readable and superbly crafted, allowing the reader to embark on fascinating journeys with these characters and exploring a wide range of emotions throughout. It's an immensely impressive debut, and I'll be extremely excited to see what Simon Edge does next. For now though, I'll just have to content myself with the book of Hopkins' poetry I have on order…
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy – and for further reading I recommend The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy, another story that takes the reader through different time periods in a hugely evocative and readable manner.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Hopkins Conundrum by Simon Edge at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Hopkins Conundrum by Simon Edge at Amazon.com.
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