Book – The Art of Standing Still
Author – Penny Cullifford
Year – 2007
Genre – Crime
Lent to me by Anna Culliford, and written by her Mum!
Reading a novel by the Mum of a friend is a scary prospect – especially when you know that you have to write a review at the end – so it was with a little trepidation that I started The Art of Standing Still.
The story centres around two women – Jemma Durham, a local news journalist, and Ruth Wells, a forty-something vicar in a small country town in Kent. Ruth has spent the past few years translating and modernising a cycle of local mystery plays, and Jemma – as part of her job – is tasked with playing the role of Mary Magdalene. As the book progresses, faiths are found, or shaken, love is searched for, and a mystery of its own begins to unfold.
Writing about the mystery cycles is a great move – I studied them a little at University, and they are an often forgotten form of community theatre which would have involved entire towns beck in the middle ages. I particularly liked the seperating of the book into not chapters, but Acts and Scenes. The biggest issue that I had instead was the girliness of the beginning of the book.
It starts out much like a romance novel with two singletons, one newly seperated, and the other a vicar who reads pulp romances in her quiet moments. The tone is unmistakenly female, and several times my mind switched into typical bloke mode, sighing at the psychoanalysis by the two female leads of the little things that men do. However, the writing is strong, so that whilst I could accept that it was not my cup of tea, I still found myself caught by the book.
Around halfway through, the tone of the story changes from romantic to a whodunnit. For me, this is where the book steps up, and becomes somewhat of a Rankin meets Emmerdale. Teh second half of the book becomes a real page turner, and I was mildly annoyed when twenty pages from the end, I was rudely interrupted by needing to begin a rehearsal. So in other words, real life.
It is worth mentioning that the book has a very strong Christian message throughout, so any of you with a religious mind will certainly take even more from The Art of Standing Still. What is also nice, is that as well as the predominantly Christian character base we are introduced to a Sikh couple and an elderly Jewish woman, both of which are close with the vicar, and which pushes to show the similarities in faiths.
All in all, a very enjoyable book, and one that I am pleased to have been able to have read.
You can find Penny Culliford’s website here.