Windmill Books £7.99 Order for £7.59 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 08430 600 030
Good to a Fault, By Marina Endicott
Tale of woe soon makes an impact
Wednesday 31 March 2010
It is notoriously difficult to write fiction about seriously good people; not innocents or victims – those are relatively easy – but characters who actively strive to be virtuous. One of the reasons the virtuous have often scorned or spurned the reading of novels is that it is so much easier to write about the bad – be they seducers or the corrupted – and certainly much easier to spin entertainment from such material.
Vicars and their congregants routinely appear in either comic or sinister guise. Jane Austen would be horrified at how a nation of readers that continues to revere her morally severe works has come to expect practising Christians to be portrayed as hypocrites or monsters. Virtue doesn't sell.
The Canadian writer Marina Endicott's second novel, Good to a Fault, won a Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and one can see why. It's just as funny and absorbing as her debut, Open Arms. But it takes the risk of placing two virtuous characters at its heart, and taking goodness and its complications as its theme.
The opening is perhaps the fastest thing about it. Clara Purdy is so busy fretting about "herself and the state of her soul" one hot July day that she drives straight into a crowded car as it speeds into a junction. When she insists on accompanying the obviously badly off family to the hospital, the woman turns out to be seriously ill, quite possibly dying, from some form of lymphoma. Learning that the family was more or less reduced to living in the car she has just wrecked, she impulsively does the Christian thing and takes them into her immaculate, childless home.
What ensues is a pleasingly spiky exploration of the limits of forgiveness and tolerance. It is a love story in the particular sense – involving a married priest with domestic and spiritual challenges of his own – and in the general one, involving the bruising extension of Clara's heart to include the children that she guiltily yearns to adopt, and their resolutely unlovable grandmother.
Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigourfilm
Bannatyne leaves Dragon's DenTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Fry ‘criticises Operation Yewtree in dinner party rant’ calling for tougher laws to deter false sex abuse allegations
- 2 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 3 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 4 Israel-Gaza conflict: ‘Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and chairs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'
- 5 Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
Emergency data law: David Cameron plots to bring back snoopers’ charter
NUT strike: David Cameron announces crackdown on strike action ahead of mass industrial action