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Cuddy: Winner of the 2023 Goldsmiths Prize

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But through all the changes the one voice that never leaves is that of the saintly Cuthbert who never quite seems to get his wish to be left alone to worship God. 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. As the book moves from 687 to 2019 in centuries-long leaps, there are less obvious themes which run throughout. There is always an owl-eyed youth, a provider of victuals and seer of visions, a bad monk and a violent man, their prominence ebbing and flowing from story to story.

It's bold, imaginative and I could've read the story of Cuddy's bones being carried around for many more pages! The layered connections and the build up to the present day do indicate that although this is not directly a state of the nation novel it does have things to say, particularly about those at the bottom of society. The stories we tell one another are all that shall remain when time dies and even the strongest sculpted stones crumple to sand. 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 enjoyed Myers poetic prose and sometimes I felt the story was so believable that I could have been reading non fiction. 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. Overall it read a bit like a guided tour of the points of interest at the cathedral (which I remembered from mine--would it have been less obvious otherwise?

This is prose poetry which is the first of several literary forms used through the book (watch out also for stories told through quotes from text books, plays in which a building is a character, a Victorian journal/diary and Myers’ intense prose). I bought this on a whim after having visited Lindisfarne, Cuddy’s Cave, and Durham for the first time this year and it was so fun to explore the story of Cuthbert through the ages.For more details, please consult the latest information provided by Royal Mail's International Incident Bulletin. Some sections read like non- fiction (literally page after page of direct quotes from reference books), others read like fiction, others like poetry (with floating words and lines mid sentence, italicised stanzas and text getting smaller and larger) and others like pieces of source material with references unusually held within the main body of the text. Characters recur, the haliwerfolk, two in particular: the boy with owlish eyes in a number of forms and Ediva, the cook in the first book also recurs in various forms.

The book about the 19th century Oxford professor who comes to Durham to witness the exhumation of Cuddy was in my opinion the least strong of all, but the last book was so moving and beautiful that I need to give five stars anyway. I found his earlier novels rather bleak, but he then wrote The Offing, a wonderfully sensitive coming-of-age novel set on the Yorkshire coast. Because of this, it feels like four disparate stories that have been cut and paste next to each other, rather than like four stories working together as one. Then after his death his body was taken from Lindisfarne all the way to Durham and the cathedral was built to keep him. Cuthbert’s remains have been moved several times to avoid Viking raiders and they are on the move again with a group of monks plus a few others on the lookout for a final resting place.The symbiosis of poetry and story, of knowledge and deep love, marks out Cuddy as a singular and significant achievement. Don’t be put off by the slightly difficult beginning - this book gets better and better as it progresses. Myers creates characters and voices so absorbing that when the timeline jumps forward you are reluctant to leave them, only for the next protagonist to become the centre of your world until it is time to move on again. I've read several other books from Benjamin Myers and not one has disappointed me (The Perfect Circle is a beautiful evocation of the English countryside).

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. Myers is particularly fascinated by the journey of self-discovery that is the birthright of each person. The 103 third parties who use cookies on this service do so for their purposes of displaying and measuring personalized ads, generating audience insights, and developing and improving products.You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. But the book’s highlight by some margin is the final novel, set in the present day, a moving meditation on familial love, caring for a parent with a terminal illness, zero-hours contracts, social mobility, particularly the area of cultural capital, and on religious faith.

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