Tennyson once sat up far into the night, utterly glued to a novel by Charlotte M Yonge. Finally, in the small hours, he declared, ‘Thank God – he’s getting confirmed!’ and slapped the book shut. Suspense is suspense, even when created by a situation most people would consider piffling, and Yonge was a devoutly Christian writer who took the internal dramas of religious faith very seriously.
Michael Arditti might not care for the comparison, but he has Yonge’s talent for making religion interesting. I read this novel as compulsively as Lord Tennyson read Charlotte’s – on the bus, in the supermarket – longing to know how the characters would solve their burning moral dilemmas.