No ordinary coin or common gold

War memorial, Hadfield, Derbyshire © Copyright David Dixon (

Fludd by Hilary Mantel.
Fourth Estate, 2010 (1989).

‘Patterns can alter,’ Fludd said. ‘A soul is a thing in a state of flux. Your fate is mutable. Your will is free.’

Chapter Ten

This short novel by the late Hilary Mantel is all about the state of flux that the title character alludes to. The anticipated call in the waiting room. That moment when you realise that all it takes to emerge from that rut is that first step; the point at which you finally decide to stand up to the bully, to change the trajectory of your life for the better.

Fetherhoughton in the mid-fifties, with its adjacent village Netherhoughton, is a community in limbo. Like the Derbyshire villages of Hadfield and Padfield near Glossop where the author grew up it is a liminal place on the borders of what is now Greater Manchester; a place of mists and rain, of freezing cold, of decaying industries, and of a profound conservatism.

Can Father Angwin, Sister Philomena, and housekeeper Agnes Dempsey respond to the door swinging open and transform their lives forever? And what are they to make of the new curate, Father Fludd, who seems to be the catalyst?

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