I loved this book; the feel of it, the sense of place, the pace and delicacy of the writing and the gradual, careful unfolding of events it asks the reader to witness, all of these drew me in and held me, unwavering. At the centre of The Mysteries of Glass is a sensitive, beautifully restrained love story and one which deserves to be savoured, not rushed.
In Herefordshire in 1860, Richard Allen takes up his first post as curate in the rural parish of Lyonshall. Sue Gee's unassuming mastery of her material is such that we can feel the cold stone of the church, smell its damp mustiness, and along with the very real physical details grasp the strict creationist orthodoxy of the Reverend Bowen and the cruel venality of the verger, Prosser - all these set the scene for what is to follow.
I loved the play of light and dark in the book, the poignant contrast between pastoral idyll and personal turmoil - the conscience fighting for what seems so natural against what is deemed 'right' - and the clear moral code which informs behaviour. There is much on the role and rights of women, too, and on hypocrisy, duty and social divisions, and the period setting is perfectly realised. In short, I found it exquisite.
I hope lots of us have read it and enjoyed it as I have done, so please have your say - and does anyone know what prayermint is?
Later: I've been reading the comments with great interest (as ever) and wanted to follow up one or two points, especially as in this case I'm the book's advocate!
Susie and Mr. C. raise the question of why Richard didn't leave his post early on, but he was very young and totally without experience in matters of the heart, and his guilt sprang from thought rather than deed, and his seeking spiritual guidance throughout surely meant he hoped for a 'legitimate' way out of his dilemma. Like the rest of us, he is human.
I loved Adele's reference to "conflicted and tormented clergy" and Tara's wish for less atmosphere and more action tickled me - I know what you mean, Tara, but my mind instantly produced an image of the bishop abseiling in through the stained glass window, or some such - but no disrespect intended.
M. loved the book, as did Carol, so they share my views, and I wonder if its stillness required a certain mood or need in the reader - horses for courses, as it were - our response is often based on what we are feeling or experiencing at the time we read a book.
Carole felt there was something missing and Elizabeth cites the predictability of the story, and yes, I agree that's pretty much clear throughout but that gives it its dreadful, painful inevitability, I think. As to Aga Sagas - I was a great fan of the early Joanna Trollope books and her later, comparatively Aga-less novels didn't appeal to me nearly as much!
Barbara missed her stop on the train while reading The Mysteries of Glass, although for her the book was flawed, but she asks about the title and here all I can say is to quote the passage on page 270 which associates faith with light and says "How did solid earth become translucent glass? The answer with its meaning came as he bowed his head once more. No man who betrayed his calling...could escape some punishment. Earth became glass through purification by fire."