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Cuddy: Winner of the 2023 Goldsmiths Prize

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Forbes Fawcett-Black resembles those unfortunate scholars dreamed up by MR James, whose much verbalised confidence in the scientific pursuit of knowledge is no defence against the darker forces they have dismissed as superstition. A controversial combination of biography and novel, Richard (2010) was a bestseller and chosen as a Sunday Times book of the year. In this first story we meet the young cook who is part of the haliwerfolk, feeding the monks with whatever can be found and also tending to their ailments – their aches and pains and even their tooth aches. Michael’s elegiac, impassioned narrative, with its layered connections back to earlier chapters, sets the seal on a novel that has far more to say about who we are as a nation, where we came from and where we are headed than any number of more self-consciously political “state of England” novels.

But the final section of the novel, though somewhat bleak, tells the story of modern Britain with its zero hour contracts and poor nutrition for those struggling to survive. The story of Saint Cuthbert, ‘the patron saint of Northern England’ is told through the experiences of a tenth century orphan, Ediva, who is travelling with a band of monks on their long journey with Cuddy’s corpse at the time of the Viking raids, the abused wife of a violent Durham stonemason in the fourteenth century, an Oxford historian straight out of an M R James story attending the opening of Cuthbert’s tomb in Durham Cathedral in 1827 (this section I found less convincing than the others and one particular glaring anachronism served to underline that the narrative voice here wasn’t quite believable) and Michael Cuthbert, a labourer working on the cathedral in 2019.

Section 2, a stream of consciousness novella about an affair after the building of Durham Cathedral, I enjoyed.

Following the Battle of Dunbar three thousand Scotsmen were imprisoned in the Cathedral, 1700 of them died. Cuddy is another book which deserves the highest praise, it is a series of stories linked by Saint Cuthbert, or 'Cuddy' as he is affectionately known, and gives us insight into various points in over a thousand years of English history. We use Google Analytics to see what pages are most visited, and where in the world visitors are visiting from. I bought this on a whim after having visited Lindisfarne, Cuddy’s Cave, and Durham for the first time this year and it was so fun to explore the story of Cuthbert through the ages. The cathedral is a wonder … in its elegance and grotesquery, its shimmering and its solidity, Myers captures it accurately.The first section is perhaps the most innovative, with prose poetry mixed with a story told from attributed quotes from various sources, ancient and modern, on which Ben Myers has drawn.

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