In addition to these, the feeble Abbot Fabian, and various aging monks, there is Alice. The only woman living on the premises, she works alongside Brother Guy in the infirmary. Intelligent, willful, and beautiful, Shardlake and Poer both take her not just into their confidence but also into their hearts. Shardlake, however, is no ordinary man—he is a hunchback.
The secret passages that Shardlake and Poer discover behind the walls of the monastery serve as an apt metaphor for the mysteries the two must solve—and are a potent reminder that nothing is as it appears. The brothers are dropping like flies, and Shardlake is painfully aware that his life may be next.
When the deranged Carthusian mockingly reveals the identity of the famous prisoner kept in the cell next to his in the Tower of London, Shardlake must confront a degree of moral decrepitude that challenges his faith in the church, his country, and even his own instincts. Forging ahead to resolve the bloody mess at St. Donatus, he knows the consequences of his investigation go beyond the dissolution of the monastery.
Sansom earned a Ph. Dissolution is his first novel. He lives in Sussex, England, where he is working on further Matthew Shardlake mysteries. What inspired the creation of Matthew Shardlake? Why did you afflict him with this particular physical deformity? I wanted to write a novel about the dissolution of the monasteries, a very dramatic episode in English history whose dramatic potential I thought had never been fully exposed—perhaps because of the complexities of theology and politics that were involved.
Or at least I think that was what was going on in my subconscious, because Shardlake and Mark riding through bad weather together was a picture that appeared in my head fully formed one day. Considering the large, if confined, cast of characters and the intricate plot twists, how did you keep the narrative on course? Discuss your method of writing such a novel.
Did you have an outline? Were you aware of the outcome from the beginning? I believe very strongly in writing to a tight structure, especially in a thriller—though I know not all thriller writers do that. But I had the idea of a female killer, and the notion that Mark would betray Shardlake, from the start. How did you make the transition from lawyer to writer? Do the two careers require types of logical thinking that compliment each other? I had always wanted to write novels, but not coming from a wealthy background I needed to work for a living and had little energy to write at the end of a busy day—a common story I know!
In I decided to take a year off and have a real go at writing a novel, and the rest is history, or at least historical novels.
Reading and Writing During the Dissolution: Monks, Friars, and Nuns by Mary C. Erler
As I said above, I think the habit of organizing large bodies of complex material, always with presentation as a factor, which I had for years as a solicitor working in civil litigation, has influenced my way of working. And my first incarnation, as a history student at university helped with the research! Why did you choose to write about this particular time in England?
Do you think it is the most important era of English history, a time that lends itself particularly well to drama, or a combination of these things? I think the sixteenth century is a fascinating period in British and European history—the intellectual framework of medieval Europe was torn apart and the modern world began.
And I am interested in other periods, having just finished a novel set around the Spanish Civil War.
Did you, at any point, envision Shardlake and Alice becoming romantically involved? Why or why not? Do you imbue your characters with parts of yourself? I think most major characters are either parts of oneself or parts of people that have made an impact on you, for good or ill. The research took about two to three months—I was lucky because I knew the period well and needed only to research the dissolution.
Dissolution Reader’s Guide
Writing was odd—the first half took six months. Then, after a crisis of confidence, I decided to just bash on and finish and I did the second half in six weeks. The revision is what takes a lot of time and is the least enjoyable part, but it has to be done and knocked into the best shape possible for the readers! Other than Matthew Shardlake, Brother Guy stood out as an individual with a fascinating past.
Is it possible that he will reappear in another novel? He is the only character from Dissolution, apart from Shardlake and Cromwell, to appear in the sequel, Dark Fire. The book concludes with thirty-five pages of appendices, offering summaries and transcriptions of some of the key documents and texts that underpin the foregoing analyses. There is no formal conclusion and only a summary introduction. In her study, the Dissolution like the larger Reformation emerges not as a one-off event, but a generation of upheaval and uncertainty. To read this book is to immerse oneself in If you would like to authenticate using a different subscribed institution that supports Shibboleth authentication or have your own login and password to Project MUSE, click 'Authenticate'.
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