Monday, 17 May 2010

The Hopkins Manuscript (Sherriff)

It was with great sadness that I finished reading the last of the 88 Persephone books on my way home from London at the weekend. The Hopkins Manuscript by RC Sherriff was the last one that I came to. I am not quite sure why it ended up at the bottom of the pile, particularly as I had so much enjoyed Sherriff's Fortnight in September when I read it last year. I think perhaps it was because its sci-fi/dystopian themes are ones which I would normally shy away from in literature. But because it was a Persephone book I read it, and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to do so.

The manuscript referred to in the title was written by Edgar Hopkins, a 53 year old ex-school master, and was composed in order to record a series of terrifying events that faced the earth. Hopkins is content with his life in the small village of Beadle, rearing poultry for competitions and occasionally going up to town to meetings of the Royal Lunar Society. As a result of his membership of the group, he is among the first to discover that the moon is gradually moving closer to the earth and is estimated to collide with it in 7 months time. Initially this discovery is kept a secret, in order to protect the population, but it is then announced and the country has to come to terms with its imminent decimation and the likely end of the world. There is an admirable sense of "blitz spirit" with which preparations are made, and one of the things that made the book so readable for me was that Sherrif describes ordinary life and details and how the average person is affected by the impending disaster.

Like The expendable man, I don't want to reveal any more about the plot (although the majority of the reviews that I've seen on librarything and Amazon do); I'll leave it up to you to read the text. But if you want a tense, dramatic and extremely compelling read, then even if science fiction isn't your poison of choice, then I would strongly recommend this novel. It's not one that I have ever seen reviewed on a blog or ever heard anyone talk about, which is a shame

Persephone republished the novel in part as a comment on global warming, which they believe to be one of the greatest catastrophes facing the world today, and it is interesting to read the book in this context and to consider how society today might react to the catastrophe that Hopkins and his contemporaries faced.

And what will I do now that I've read all of the Persephones? Well, I've still got 9 more to collect, and there are some that I would like very much to re-read, especially following reading people's reviews during the Persephone Reading Week, particularly, Greenery Street, The new house, Family roundabout and all of Dorothy Whipple. The Persephone bookshop also have a wonderful table of "50 books we wish we had published"; as the Persephone imprint is a great endorsement of a good read, I may have to have a read of some of those (although I noticed that I had read quite a number already)


  1. I've only just heard about them in the last few weeks and have yet to buy my first. I can't velieve you've read all of them though. Surely you must get at least a certificate for that ;)

  2. I was very interested to read this review Verity as I was intrigued by this book but, like you, fear sci-fi. It sounds even better than I hoped and so will be added to the never ending list...

  3. Gosh you deserve a lovely grey medal or something! Brilliant.
    The 50 books... do look lovely, and apparently they change them quite often, too, which rather surprised me - what about the poor books which get displaced?! They do look excellent though, and a nice wide selection of genres, too.

  4. Wow! Congrats (or is it condolences?) on finishing all the Persephones.

    I actually love dystopian and sci-fi novels, so a combination scifi/Persephone is certainly intriguing!

  5. Jessica - maybe a certificate when I own them all?!

    Tealady - I still have a fear of sci-fi, it was only the Persephone endorsement that made it approachable!

    Jane - I didn't know that they changed the books quite regularly - will have to go back - I made a list when I was there the other week.

    Teresa - condolences i think :( At least there will be 2 more in November.

  6. Despite longing for each title which I've ordered, I hold off reading them for that very reason. Turning the first page of a new Persephone is a delicious feeling!

  7. Considering I've read all of two Persephones, I'm quite impressed by that.

    Congratulations :)

  8. I can't believe you've read them all! I am not a fan of dystopian/sci fi stuff either but you've made this sound very interesting indeed...eventually, I am sure, I will get around to it!

  9. Darlene - at least there will be two more new ones later in the year.

    Another cookie - only 86 more to go :)

    Rachel - it is worth a read and strangely good to read beyond the norm.


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