This month.....

Seeing ourselves in the mirror of literature

Firstly can I express my thanks for all those who sponsored me. I ran the Great North Run in 1:43:06, not my fastest but that’s okay. Although at the moment I don’t know how much I raised I do know that I have surpassed my goal for the year. Please see http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RichardCurtis for more information.

Now to this months reflection.

Moving to Wiltshire I’ve moved to a county whose county city has appeared, either explicitly or in a more hidden way, in a lot of literature over the years. Salisbury is the setting for William Golding’s “The Spire”, Edward Rutherford’s “Sarum”, Cornelia Funke’s “Ghost Night” and Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure” all of which I have yet to read. Also Trollope’s “Barchester Chronicles” and Susan Howatch’s “Starbridge” novels are very obviously really Salisbury; I have read these.

At the moment I am listening to the audio books of Ken Follett’s “Kingsbridge” novels, the first of which was published in 1989 and the third of which is due to be publishes just a few days after I am writing this. The “Kingsbridge” novels mention Salisbury and the fictitious village/town/city of Kingsbridge is somewhere near here.

Ken Follett’s “Kingsbridge” novels (well the first two at least) tell the stories of normal people living in abnormal times and one gets an insight into how Church and State influence the lives of those people. Often fiction can enable us to engage with the issues of our time in an acceptable way. The “Kingsbridge” novels raise issues that should be historic and irrelevant to us now but they prod us to examine whether this really is the case.

Susan Howatch’s “Starbridge” novels are set within the 20th century and enable us to reflect on recent history. I remember reading the first of the 6 novels in this series and not thinking much of it. Only in the light of the other 5 novels did I eventually value the first novel.

Novelists have often used fictitious settings to criticise aspects of the nation’s life of their day. I suspect that we are living in a period of time that will be seen as a significant point in the life of the Church of England. Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed reading another series of novels by the author Catherine Fox. Catherine has a deep knowledge of the Church of England, her husband was the last Dean of Liverpool Cathedral and is just about to become the Bishop of Sheffield (not that we should define anyone by their spouse!).

Catherine, like the authors mentioned above, writes about a cathedral city, this time Lindchester. As I’ve read her novels I recognise aspects of Lindchester, it reminds me of Litchfield and Lincoln and perhaps in a way even Leicester! Is the L a clue I wonder perhaps I should add Liverpool to my list of cathedral cities but that’s a city I’ve yet to visit.

Catherine’s first “Lindchester” novel, “Acts and Omissions” tells the story of Lindchester in 2014 and the sequel, “Unseen Things Above”, is set in 2015. I suspect that it will be no surprise to know that “Realms of Glory”, Catherine’s recently publishes third “Lindchester” novel, is set in 2016. These three novels are very ‘current’ and reflect upon the Church of England as it is now. I’ve really enjoyed them and devoured them after having been introduced to the first novel by a friend who works in Church House Westminster. If you don’t know these novels I can recommend them to you.

I hope you enjoy whatever you’re reading this Autumn.

Richard Curtis