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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He is most definitely in a class of his own and I can't wait to see where his writing takes me next. Myers is particularly fascinated by the journey of self-discovery that is the birthright of each person. Michael Cuthbert’s connection with the landscape is of an intensity we might expect from a character in an Alan Garner novel.

Which sounds strange when you realise that the book starts on a small island near Lindisfarne with Cuthbert’s death (AD687).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. This book is a challenge no doubt, and demands perseverance from its readers, not all of whom will want to take on the trouble of that task.

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. I also visited Durham and Lindisfarne last month and always love a setting-driven story and was curious about the central St Cuthbert. The playscript of the interlude and the ornate pastiche of the Victorian ghost story lead us to the rich and resonant prosody of the final section, its twin emphasis on sense of place and societal disjuncture keenly familiar from Myers’s previous work in novels including The Gallows Pole and The Perfect Golden Circle. The downtrodden wife of an archer seeks the truth in stone walls, in meadows full of garlic flowers.

Myers’ short story ‘The Folk Song Singer’ was awarded the Tom-Gallon Prize in 2014 by the Society Of Authors and published by Galley Beggar Press. 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. Breaking the book up into sections, each one a different style, is an interesting concept but badly executed poetry and some of the worst "Scottish" dialogue I've ever read in a small play that forms the Interlude stops me from enjoying it. Combining prose, poetry, play, diary and real historical events, this audacious tour de force from the author of The Gallows Pole and The Perfect Golden Circle traces the story of St Cuthbert - unofficial patron saint of the North of England - through the centuries and the voices of ordinary people. Then after his death his body was taken from Lindisfarne all the way to Durham and the cathedral was built to keep him.

The finely woven stories even use lines from the referenced works of multiple historians; an inventive way to set some historical narrative alongside the fiction. There is indeed poetry, prose, the occasional epistle, dramatic dialogue and bibliographical references woven into it stretching from Bede to modern times (Schama). 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. This first part is the story of the haliwerfolk, the people of the holy man, who accompanied the dead saint on his journey; the abbot and monks, the cook and the horse-boy.

As the book moves from 687 to 2019 in centuries-long leaps, there are less obvious themes which run throughout. 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. He has also published non-fiction, poetry and crime novels and his journalism has appeared in publications including the Guardian , New Statesman , TLS, Caught by the River and many more. I read Book I with enthusiasm, its verse-like format and fragments of historical detail building a picture of his 10th-century followers ("this colourful caravan of committed Cuddy acolytes / this coffin-carrying cult, forever on the flit, / forever making camp and breaking camp") as they travelled with his remains and envisioned a home for them at Durham. Pig Iron (2012) was the winner of the inaugural Gordon Burn Prize and runner-up in The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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