Skip to main content

An Angel Visits - Paul Wilson

I stayed up late last night (the best opening to a book review) to finish reading Paul Wilson's A Visiting Angel (Tindal Street).

Set in Manchester the main character is Patrick Shepherd, a man who manages The Limes, a type of halfway house/sanctuary for people who've 'fallen down'. It was a role he took up by chance; some would say serendipity, and was taken under the wing of The Limes original pioneering manager, Benedict. A hard-bitten former alcoholic who originated from the Gorbals, like that factual famous Gorbals boy RD 'Ronnie' Laing, Benedict takes a pragmatic yet deeply humane approach to those who wind up in his care, seeing the house as a sanctuary from society - society is not being protected from them but vice versa.

Patrick is as fragile and anxious as those he works with and Wilson slowly and expertly reveals his story, alongside that of the angel of the title, Liam, his older brother whom we are led to believe has just returned from America where he was a successful writer. Other characters tales are woven through, particularly Sarah's, the health advisor of a GUM clinic who we learn lost her 7 year old daughter in a car accident. What it amounts to is an unflinching expose of the frailties that so many of us carry through our lives; the coping mechanisms and the redemption that we seek. It is also a damning indictment of societal structure and how marketised and target driven the 'care industry' has become, to the detriment of all concerned.

It is a beautiful novel, deeply touching. I would also go so far as to say that it should be required reading for all who work in politics and in the care sector. The only criticism I would have is in its sense of place; it is set in Manchester and whilst there are markers, as a native of that city I felt it didn't evoke a strong enough sense of its geography. But I would still give it 5/5 and dearly hope it wins the Portico Prize, which is awarded to literature set in the north. However, if Wilson does achieve that it won't be the first time, having won it in 1997.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…