Cuddy: Winner of the 2023 Goldsmiths Prize

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Cuddy: Winner of the 2023 Goldsmiths Prize

Cuddy: Winner of the 2023 Goldsmiths Prize

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My expectations were only met piecemeal, more consistently in the first half than in the second half. There is indeed poetry, prose, the occasional epistle, dramatic dialogue and bibliographical references woven into it stretching from Bede to modern times (Schama). I just adore discovering a book that is so perfect that I keep stopping to enjoy perfectly composed sentences . No, he is not that big, but when he enters you it opens you up so that it feels like the world has a tear in its fabric and white light is beaming through, illuminating, seeking a path. I've read several of Benjamin Myres books and haven't been able to put them down, but not this one, not for me, I'm afraid.

Following the Battle of Dunbar three thousand Scotsmen were imprisoned in the Cathedral, 1700 of them died. I found it a little hard to get going with reading this as the mix of styles and forms used to move through the vast period of history covered in this retelling of the story and legacy of Saint Cuthbert from Lindisfarne to Dunhelm and Durham of today, was challenging- the last section is largely contemporary and very touching, and caused me to go back and re-read the earlier sections, and realise what an amazing success this book is - intentionally fitting form to content over the centuries. I’ve been reading his novels over the past few years and there’s something different, from the tender relationship in The Offing , the working class narrative of Pig Iron and medieval coin counterfeiters of The Gallows Pole. There is a continuum which Myers weaves through an ancient folklore which challenges the powerful and defends the vulnerable. He never knew his father, who has done time in prison, and his lack of qualifications leaves him dependent on zero-hours labouring contracts.Perhaps Saint Cuthbert spoke to Benjamin Myers while he was writing this because it feels inspired, showcasing all of its author’s talents without feeling contrived or gimmicky. As the book moves from 687 to 2019 in centuries-long leaps, there are less obvious themes which run throughout. A man who lived alone on a rocky island in the North Sea, preferring the solitude and the wild birds to the company of men. In this unique new novel by Benjamin Myers, the story of Cuddy is retold and reworked to take place over multiple centuries after the saint’s death in 687AD.

A set of stories from past to present with St Cuthbert (Cuddy) as a guiding presence in some way in each. For more details, please consult the latest information provided by Royal Mail's International Incident Bulletin. The common thread is a history of St Cuthbert and Durham cathedral but within that we have experiments with form and structure. This is always near impossible to pull off and, while I admire the ambition, I feel like it could have been pared back a little. Myers explores several topics, many of them quite obvious: the difference between faith and religion, the cost of true devotion, and the interplay between Art and Science.

We don’t share your credit card details with third-party sellers, and we don’t sell your information to others. It is not until 2013, when a new café is being constructed, that their mass grave will be discovered. It is true to say that Cuddy is difficult to get into at first, because the first part is the story of the wandering band that carry Cuddy's body throughout North England. It is mostly at the fictional end of the historical fiction spectrum, and although St Cuthbert or Cuddy is, along with Durham Cathedral, the main link between its parts, he remains a peripheral and elusive figure who mostly appears in the other protagonists' dreams and vision. In some ways, what stood out for me apart from the quality of the writing was the gentle exploration of faith and intimations of the possibility of the divine.

The latter aspects was one of the book’s highlights for me, but the prose poetry it’s weakest element, albeit one that put Cuddy in dialogue with Letty McHugh’s brilliant Barbellion Prize winning The Book of Hours. Loyal monks and shifting bands of followers conveyed Cuthbert’s coffin to Chester-le-Street, where it remained until 995, when Viking invaders again made it necessary to move it to safety. This place must have been built by brilliant minds and fuelled by a faith in something bigger, a form of faith that he now wishes he too might experience. and from Cuthbert's history, dressed up in fictional packaging that was sometimes very beautiful and sometimes dismayingly forced. And I look forward to Myers next work which sounds even more innovative, “a novella set in Berlin in 1971, and it explores both the idea of public performance and challenges what actually even constitutes a ‘novel’ these days.

Several more sections follow in which we follow a young girl with her visions of a cathedral and her visitations from Cuthbert (AD995); we live in the shadow of that cathedral (Durham cathedral as we know it) with a woman (AD1346) whose husband is a famous archer but is also abusive and she falls for another, more gentle, man; we read the journal of an Oxford antiquarian (AD1827) as he travels to the north of England (which he despises) to witness the disinterment of a body in the cathedral; and we follow Michael Cuthbert in AD2019 as he cares for his mother and scratches a living as a labourer, eventually finding more stable work at the cathedral. Ediva is alive to the rhythms of the landscape in a way that marks her out as different; she also sees visions of the future cathedral – a building “bigger than anything man has ever built, so big it rears up like a mountain, like a great beast” – where the saint will finally be laid to rest.

But, they are of course linked by a shared sense of place and a history which ultimately binds them together, if not as seamlessly as one might expect. It's bold, imaginative and I could've read the story of Cuddy's bones being carried around for many more pages! When is historical inquiry illuminating, and are there times one should simply "let his story lie" undisturbed?And all the while at the centre sits Durham Cathedral and the lives of those who live and work around this place of pilgrimage - their dreams, desires, connections and communities.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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