Vol. XXI, #1 David Antin
Review of Contemporary Fiction
Fludd and Every Day Is Mother's Day, by Hilary Mantel
reviewed by Sally E. Parry
Owl Books, 2000. 181 pp. Paper: $13.00; Owl Books, 2000. 225 pp. Paper: $13.00.
Fludd is the stronger of the two novels; it interrogates the nature of faith in a way that would amaze Trollope. Father Angwin, the priest of the dismal village of Fetherhoughton, pretends to have faith even though he lost it thirty years ago. Something supernatural happens to cause him to investigate his faith, although it’s not clear whether Fludd is an otherworldy visitor, a new curate, an angel, a devil, or a seventeenth-century alchemist. Fludd helps him defy his bishop, who has ordered that the statues of saints be taken away from the church, and aids in his struggles against a group of strong-minded nuns who spend their time alternating between cruelly educating children and working on a tapestry of the plagues of Egypt. There is black humor as well in Every Day Is Mother’s Day, but little hope. Set in modern London, the novel details the miserable life of a widow with a mentally disturbed daughter, Muriel, and the complications arising from Muriel’s pregnancy. There are possibly supernatural beings in this novel too, although they may also be the evil vibrations of a house where memories of child abuse and murder exist.
Mantel’s prose is striking and witty, especially when the out of the ordinary happens. Her vision of the world is bleakly humorous and allows for the possibility, however remote, of a kind of grace.