In Faversham’s Dream, notable theologian Anthony Duncan spins spools of modern spirituality into an enticing historical yarn. It is often said that history is written by the victors, the powerful and elite, and usually presented from the top down with the impersonal tales of Kings and Popes. Here, Duncan gives us a very human story from the bottom up, through the eyes of a 16th century commoner made to suffer the deeds of his powerful overlords. It is this very visceral and excruciating struggle that resonates through time, leaving a residue on the landscape for the sensitive souls that come after.
Whether by chance or divine providence, John Faversham comes across a volume of poems by a little known but enchanting 19th Century poet. Well rooted in the logical empiricism of his day, John is astonished to learn that this poet was not only a previous tenant of the very house in which he lives but also the sharer of a very specific dream. Thus opens a psychic porthole through which protagonist and reader are transported alike, to an alluring parallel story in the 16th Century. The characters reach across time in the weaving of this magical parable, one that doesn’t conform to easy dualisms or a prescribed sense of ethics. The scientific mind must meet with its own Reformation of sorts as histories are made to confront themselves in the mirror.
British fiction has a long tradition of protagonists in the present finding some mystic trapdoor to the past – Peter Akroyd’s Hawksmoor, Graham Swift’s Waterland and A.S. Byat’s Possession are three that immediately spring to mind. In such works the author must surrender to the magnetic field of history and allow him or herself to swept by unknown forces. Anthony Duncan yields thoroughly to what can only be an extremely uncomfortable time for an Anglican cleric to experience, where the corrupted church of Rome clashes with the puritanical brutality of the reformers, where successive monarchs purge and burn for one side then the other. Faversham’s Dream is a miraculous portrayal of what it must have been like in the lower vestiges of society, where piety and loyalty can quickly become heresy and treason overnight. The sheer detail will delight English history buffs and the theologically curious. The novel follows the plight of one man and his family – and how atrocities of the few become the collective and repressed guilt of a nation. It is left to the irreligious John Faversham to offer final unction to the trapped souls of the past – but at a heavy price.
Faversham’s Dream is available from various retail outlets such as Amazon, or direct from the Skylight Press website.