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Monday, May 15, 2006

Havoc, in Its Third Year

I recently read Havoc, in Its Third Year by Ronan Bennett, after hearing about it from Early Modern Notes. Very enjoyable for those of us interested in 1630s England and religious conflict; I'm not sure how much it would appeal to others. It's sort of like an early modern English version of The Crucible--the same focus on a historical period of (what is portrayed as) religious fanaticism as a means of commenting (not always subtly) on contemporary politics. I thought the depiction of the climate in a small town during the 1630s and the rise of a city government dominated by puritanism was very well done. And it also captures the flavor of local politics, as the town is caught between the new theocrats and the old, exploitative local lord. The main character is a closet Catholic, the local coroner and a town alderman, who outwardly conforms but occasionally harbors a missionary priest (a nice touch: they are only able to see the priest once a year or so, so much of the household's religion must be carried on without external guidance).

What's missing, I think, in the religious spectrum of the town, are the people Judith Maltby calls "prayer book Protestants," those who doggedly adhered to the Book of Common Prayer and what they perceived as the mainline tradition of the English church, not simply out of a desire to avoid conflict or to resist taking sides, but rather out of serious religious conviction.

Anyway, it's definitely a fun read and a page-turner. Anyone out there read it?

 Scribble some marginalia

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