Monday, 25 June 2012

Morality Play - Barry Unsworth


Shameful though it is, it took Unsworth's recent death to remind me to check out his work.  I scanned through the list and this one leapt out at me.  It's medieval, which I like, and it's about drama, just like my PhD.  I acquired a copy, jumped in - and was immediately blown away with how well Unsworth writes.  He doesn't lay on the history research with the proverbial trowel, yet there are things here even I didn't know about.  Did medieval players really have a lexicon of hand gestures with which to express emotion?  I genuinely don't know but if they didn't they should have and it sounds absolutely convincing in this text.  It is also a murder mystery with a paedophile serial killer on the loose in County Durham.  But that's not what Morality Play is about.  Unsurprisingly, it's about morality and the moral code of the age, which is obviously different to ours.

Most of all, though, this is high literature, plainly but beautifully written with the editorial control of a true master.  It might only be 188 pages long but there is no way this novel is slight.

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