Book reviews, Crime thriller

Virgin & Child by Maggie Hamand – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Literary Thriller ‘merges Crime with Catholicism’

Patrick, the first Irish Pope, discovers he is intersex and finds himself pregnant. 

Maggie Hamand’s Virgin & Child grips onto this wild premise and runs from there.

This isn’t a book about miracles. Maggie is a journalist, has a science degree, and what happens in the novel is within the realm of the possible. Virgin & Child is alternate history, that lets the reader expand their sense of what is credible.

What gives this novel true bite is how real it feels. Maggie grew up as what her era called a tomboy, and gave birth to three sons. She worked and campaigned for women’s fertility rights. She has also studied theology and this book began as a PhD in that subject, before she changed to creative writing.

‘I found the theology PhD too constricting, and felt that only by writing fiction could I fully explore the issues I wanted to tackle,’ says Hamand. ‘I felt that only through an imagined direct and bodily experience could a celibate Pope understand a

woman’s experience. I hope that by reading the novel others will identify with the character and be shocked into a new understanding.”

Like works by Brian Moore, Graham Greene, Robert Harris and Piers Paul Reed, the novel reads as a gripping thriller while at the same time tackling questions of religion, faith and gender. What makes Virgin & Child different is that it’s not written by a man. Did a mother conceive the notion of a virgin birth? Probably not. Mothers know the act of creation is all too human and messy.

This novel takes a Pope, God’s elect on Earth who tradition says has to be a man, and feminizes the whole concept. How would that alter a male worldview? Virgin & Child gives an answer as an act of searing storytelling.

 

‘Strangely touching… written with great elegance and authority. It tackles “head on” some of the most challenging issues for the Roman Catholic Church around gender and sexuality’ Sara Maitland

 

‘Cleverly merges crime with Catholicism and piety with a dangerous love… wonderfully original and absorbing.’ Mary Flanagan

 

Virgin & Child tied in with Maggie Hamand’s earlier fiction as a dangerous play on the Christian story. Praise for The Resurrection of the Body:

 

‘This extraordinary little book is thoughtful, perceptive, and subtle…’ Laura Wilson, The Guardian

 

‘Maggie Hamand is a writer possessed of that rare gift: an utterly individual voice’ Barry Forshaw, The Independent

 

‘A compelling, impressive tale’ The Times

 

‘An assured tone and decidedly bold denouement – a talent to watch’ Financial Times

‘More than a tricksy re-telling of an old tale… miracle and science, truth and myth, clash and interweave in the raw glare of modernity’ Catholic Herald

 

‘Exquisitely well-constructed… an extraordinary achievement.’ Brighton Argus

‘Ingenious and provocative’ Hampstead & Highgate Express

 

‘This is just one of those books you don’t want to put down’ Lancashire Evening Telegraph

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MY REVIEW 

Pope Patrick, the first Irish born Pope is already upsetting the apple art that is the Roman Catholic Church. 

He feels there should be a discussion about the souls of lost, unborn foetus’, they should have meaning and others vehemently disagree.

Patrick is attacked and after medical checks he is found to be pregnant…….he now has a choice to make! 

While this is a crime thriller. It also deals with issues of gender, sexuality and faith. It’s not about sensationalism but of real life in is messy, complicated glory,

Beautifully written, it’s articulate and compassionate. It is only a relatively short novel at 280 pages but it packs a punch. Thought provoking and unputdownable.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Maggie Hamand is a journalist, novelist, and creative writing lecturer. She was the first winner of the World One-Day Novel Cup and her novel, The Resurrection of the Body, was published by Penguin and has been optioned for film and television. She was founder and director of the award-winning independent publisher Maia Press. Maggie has a degree in biochemistry, a Masters in theology, and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Hull. She has taught in a range of institutions including Holloway Prison and is author of the best-selling Creative Writing For Dummies. She lives in East London.