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Cuddy: Winner of the 2023 Goldsmiths Prize

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Impressive scope and literary range to this brick of a novel about Saint Cuthbert's posthumous legacy. Incorporating poetry, prose, play, diary and real historical accounts to create a novel like no other, Cuddy straddles historical eras - from the first Christian-slaying Viking invaders of the holy island of Lindisfarne in the 8th century to a contemporary England defined by class and austerity.

There was some real skill in the period writing, but the final section a) needed editing, it was flabby, and b) was directionless, and this in turn, made me wonder what the point of the whole was meant to be. 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. It is probably Myers' most ambitious and experimental book (with the possible exception of The Gallows Pole) and it is a very enjoyable and stimulating read. From that point began a series of buildings which would eventually become one of the most spectacular cathedrals in Europe.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. 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.

Cuthbert’s coffin to Durham, the narrator is a girl who has visions and is able to talk to the saint directly, in which we get glimpses of his life. The writing was gorgeous, the characters were so well written and everything about this book was spellbinding. Cuddy is told (mainly) in four distinct parts, all written in unique styles and telling a different part of the legend and myth of St Cuthbert over more than 1,000 years in the north of England.Although the later sections (a second-person account of the construction of Durham Cathedral, a Murder in the Cathedral-type play set in the 1650s, the excavation of his remains in the 1820s, a young man and potential descendant in 2019 Durham named Michael Cuthbert) feel pretty pretentious and less than essential, it's neat that a similar female character (Edith or Edie in later sections) recurs. But I can recognise that this is a step up from what Myers has written before, and that it will bring him to the attention of people who perhaps haven't read his work before. I knew nothing about St Cuthbert before reading the novel although I was vaguely aware of the Early Christian church and Lindesfarne. The symbiosis of poetry and story, of knowledge and deep love, marks out Cuddy as a singular and significant achievement. It's going to be hard to find a reader who loves every section equally and there will inevitably be highs and lows.

It is not until 2013, when a new café is being constructed, that their mass grave will be discovered. Recipient of the Roger Deakin Award and first published by Bluemoose Books, Myers' novel The Gallows Pole was published to acclaim in 2017 and was winner of the Walter Scott Prize 2018 - the world's largest prize for historical fiction. My expectations were only met piecemeal, more consistently in the first half than in the second half. Fame” would have been anathema to him as he lived a very simple, austere life and died alone on a rock in the North Sea. Don’t be put off by the slightly difficult beginning - this book gets better and better as it progresses.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. There is a strong smell of urine, the invisible scent markings of feral men after midnight staining the cold concrete. As a journalist he has written about the arts and nature for publications including New Statesman, The Guardian, The Spectator, NME, Mojo, Time Out, New Scientist, Caught By The River, The Morning Star, Vice, The Quietus, Melody Maker and numerous others. As the book moves from 687 to 2019 in centuries-long leaps, there are less obvious themes which run throughout. The north to me has always appeared a land of coughing chimneys, blotched babies, vile ale, wet wool and cloying clouds, where all is coated with a slick of grime, a skein of grease, and such concepts as aspiration, education and betterment extend to an extra pan-load of dripping of a week's end.

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