If novels are going to be as rich in reference as Hilary Mantel’s Fludd, I do think the publishers should be encouraged to add optional reading lists at the end. Fludd is a funny, exquisitely written story of priests and nuns in Fifties England, but it is also a questioning, intellectual book that applies a profound thoughtfulness to various abstruse areas of religious (or supernatural) belief. It left me longing to know more about all sorts of things: miracles, angels, Aquinas’s doctrine of form and matter. I buzzed around Dillon’s with more animation than I’ve summoned up for years.
This is a novel about transformation – the sort of transformation that counts, in the Gospels, as miracle. But the figure who works the transformations is not the Messiah; he is Fludd, are incarnated 17th-century alchemist who turns up mysteriously one dark and stormy night in the tough, gritty, superstitious