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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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. He is the author of ten books, including The Offing , which was an international bestseller and selected for the Radio 2 Book Club; The Gallows Pole , which won the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction and has been adapted as a BBC series by Shane Meadows; Beastings which was awarded the Portico Prize for Literature, and Pig Iron which won the inaugural Gordon Burn Prize. I loved what Myers was trying to do here and show how history gets warped and changed by us and our stories over the years. I think this is the reaction many readers will have, as every different style Myers uses is going to appeal to different people. When 2019 rolled around I went in thinking I would be disinterested, especially since it didn't instantly seem connected to the rest of the book, but actually I got drawn into Michael's story.

I began with The Gallows Pole when I was part of the panel that longlisted the book for The Republic of Consciousness prize in 2018. Cuthbert is one of Britain’s most popular saints, widely venerated for his affinity with animals, his sympathy for ordinary working people and his association with the landscapes and holy places of the north of England. The final part of the novel, Daft Lad, brings us at last to the present, or rather the very recent past of 2019. But the final section of the novel, though somewhat bleak, tells the story of modern Britain with its zero hour contracts and poor nutrition for those struggling to survive. There is much more that could be said, but there are plenty of good detailed reviews available already, and I would encourage those who haven't read it to give it a chance.The 440 page novel is broken down into 4 distinct sections that tell their story in a different narrative style and seemingly bear no relation to each other in terms of sharing characters, form, prose, setting and time period. The fact that I had visited many of the Northumberland settings, including Durham and Lindisfarne, in 2021, gave me a greater than average interest in this book, but I doubt many readers, other than those with a local connection, will have staying power. I love the differences in language and behaviour that he's captured, along with the changes in the story of how Cuthbert ended up at Durham and why the cathedral was built there.

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. 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.The triumphant new novel from the Walter Scott Prize-winning author of The Gallows Pole and The Offing. Which sounds strange when you realise that the book starts on a small island near Lindisfarne with Cuthbert’s death (AD687). 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. There are many interesting motifs that repeat across the different stories: an owl eyed youth, a provider of sustenance, a visionary, a bad monk, and a violent man, and quite possibly more that I didn't notice.

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. Book three, The Corpse in the Cathedral, finds us in the company of a 19th-century Oxford professor, Forbes Fawcett-Black, invited to witness the opening of Cuthbert’s tomb.The Corpse in the Cathedral is a ghost story all the more satisfying for being populated by ghosts we have already met. The novel moves through time concentrating on a collection of characters who share characteristics through time but are mostly living in the area around Durham Cathedral . St Cuthbert nicknamed Cuddy is the unofficial patron saint of the North of England and throughout the novel we hear the viewpoints of monks, stonemasons, brewers, cooks, academics, and many more. 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.

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. We don’t share your credit card details with third-party sellers, and we don’t sell your information to others. Once again Ben Myers has built another time machine in words and I thoroughly enjoyed being humped around early medieval northern England alongside St Cuthbert's holy corpse via centuries of fisticuffs and up Durham Cathedrals tower to a sensitive take on issues of our own time. My admiration of Benjamin Myers' work is well known, and I think with Cuddy- because it is extremely experimental in style and approach- he has positioned himself more than ever before to be in the running for a longlist nomination on this year's Booker Prize.

Myers characterisation is excellent and the stories overlap, interlink and echo off each other through the years. The book is in six parts, four of which are extended stories which range from the 10th century to the present day, the others are a short prologue and an interlude. 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.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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