Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Rapid Reviews : Mr Wroe's Virgins by Jane Rogers

Bought in a charity shop in Settle whilst there om holiday, Mr Wroe's Virgins is a novel based on fact; in the 1800s the Christian Isrealite preacher and prophet John Wroe of Ashton Under Lyne, Lancashire claimed that God had told him to take seven virgins from his congregation to give comfort. The book tells the tale - from four of the virgins perspectives - of the nine months they shared together, until accusations of indecency and a subsequent trial brought the household to a dramatic end.

Told Yojimbo style; i.e. showing the same event or events from the different perspective and views of each narrator (there's probably a better, more literary based example than the film Yojimbo, but sod it that's the one I'm using) the story is engrossing and personal and surprises you by having one narrator reference an event as little more than an aside, leaving the next narrator - who it may affect more - to describe it naturally in more depth. It makes for a very matter of fact, satisfying approach from author Jane Rogers, who I've come to really admire since reading her novel The Testament of Jessie Lamb last year. There's just one character who stands out whose motivations and thoughts you are not privy to, and that is Mr Wroe himself. Historically fascinating, the story has extra weight now given the revelation of the more later day sex scandals of the Church - I was especially shocked and amused to read how the Elders of Mr Wroe's Church would request the lash as punishment for such seemingly minor offences as being late from the virgins, with the proviso they must hold the Elders by the groin throughout the ordeal!

The novel was adapted for television in the early 90s by Danny Boyle. It starred Jonathan Pryce as Wroe alongside Kerry Fox, Kathy Burke and Minnie Driver, to name but a few, as his virgins. The series has never been released onto DVD, but it is currently being uploaded onto YouTube in parts. 

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