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The Golden Virgin (1957) was the sixth entry in Henry Williamson’s fifteen-volume A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight spanning the years from the late Victorian period to the Second World War. Its action unfolds in 1916, the year of the Somme. As war destroys the countryside Phillip Maddison 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. Invalided home once again Phillip re-crosses the narrow waters of the Channel to find life continuing as before, albeit with an ever-widening gulf between those at home and those who have ‘returned.’
‘Williamson’s style is romantic, though rarely sentimental, and his sensuous response to nature is fresh and surprising.’ Anthony Burgess, Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English since 1939
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