The Golden Virgin
The sixth volume of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight , The Golden Virgin , is set in the Great War during 1916, the year of the Somme. It shows Phillip Maddison surviving in the face of terror, already a veteran of Ypres and Loos.
As war destroys the countryside Phillip loves, turning it into an inferno of mud and terror, the damaged figure of the Mother of God with her Babe on a ruined church inspires the legend that war will end only when she, the Golden Virgin, topples into the ruins below. Across the narrow waters of the Channel life continues as before, with an ever-widening gulf between those at home and those who return.
A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight is an epic comprising fifteen volumes. Although it should be much better known, it has attracted high praise most especially from George D. Painter (the biographer of Proust) and John Middleton Murry:
'Here is an unrolling map of the labyrinth of three generations, our fathers, ourselves and our children, and the thread leading to the mystery - monster or divinity? - at the centre. In my belief ... the whole cycle will ultimately be recognized as the great historical novel of our time, its subject as the total experience of twentieth-century man.' George D. Painter
'This will be in its entirety one of the most remarkable English novels of our time ... It is amazingly rich in all the living detail of a swiftly changing society; the characters are drawn with such loving sympathy and such firmness of imaginative outline that we are entirely absorbed by their vicissitudes. We are apprehensive for them, we are relieved; we rejoice and are sorrowful; we are angry and we understand and we laugh and laugh again. To be able to do this with us is the novelist's supreme gift ... I believe it is high time we awoke to the splendour and scope of his effort and achievement in A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight . Begin with the Dark Lantern and read on; you will be the richer for it.' John Middleton Murry
The entire fifteen-volume sequence is being reissued in Faber Finds.
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