Maria McCann was born in Liverpool in 1956 and spent most of her childhood there devouring novels at every opportunity. She read English at the University of Durham and then embarked on a series of jobs including Citizens' Advice, telephonist, artist's model and EFL teacher. Since 1988 she has been a Lecturer in English at a Somerset college. An Arvon course gave her the confidence to write after years of 'scribbling' and she later read for an MA in Writing at the University of Glamorgan. She loves plays, gin, dancing and dogs. This is her first novel.
The 17th-century English revolution serves as backdrop to this brilliant, ambitious epic, the story of a compelling antihero who struggles against his own violent tendencies to little avail. Jacob Cullen, the well-intentioned but volatile narrator, is forced to flee his wedding ceremony with bride Caro and brother Zebedee when he learns that he is about to be accused of a murder he rashly committed, perhaps in self-defense. Shocked by Jacob's brutality, Caro takes off with Zeb, and the bereft Jacob is forced to become a soldier in Cromwell's army after being rescued by a soldier named Christopher Ferris. When Christopher deserts, he brings Jacob with him, giving him shelter in his family home in London. Their friendship, already charged, slips gradually into clandestine romance, and the two become passionate lovers. The trajectory of their relationship shapes the second half of the novel, as does a utopian project undertaken by Christopher with Jacob's help. Disillusioned with society, Christopher attempts to cobble together a tiny, independent farming colony, an effort that brings out the bully in Jacob and strains their relationship as the authorities move in to break up the group. Jacob, meanwhile, edges closer to learning the fate of Caro and Zebedee. The first half of McCann's narrative is rather slow moving, but she does a superb job of mustering historical detail and atmosphere in the service of a stunning character portrait of the troubled but charismatic Jacob. The scope of the narrative, the unusual conceit and the resonant writing combine to make this a powerful, unusual debut. (Jan.) Forecast: McCann's novel was greeted with raves in England and will be supported in the U.S. by a national publicity campaign and a five-city author tour. Though it may not be quite as reader-friendly as The Crimson Petal and the White, it should attract a similar audience. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
'A fat, juicy masterpiece. Jacob, who destroys what he loves with the rapacity of his desire, is as compelling as he is appalling Most impressively, the writing here is flawless. These pages flow like claret. ' Economist 'A novel teeming with life a triumphant piece of historical evocation. McCann's unflinching descriptions of battle are matched by the power of her depiction of London in all its fetid splendour. And in the character of Jacob himself, a strong but selfish man weakened by a violent temper and haunted by guilty dreams, McCann shows the imaginative empathy that is the hallmark of a true novelist.' Vogue 'A true delight, vivid, well-written and, best of all, accessible Maria McCann's characters leap off the page and speak in contemporary voices that entirely convince' Daily Express 'An intriguing and disturbing first novel which lingers in the mind Tense with anguish, intimacy and shame, it imaginatively re-creates the mentality of a society racked by war and intoxicated by radical new ideas of freedom and change.' TLS
Against the backdrop of the English Revolution, Jacob Cullen, a selfish man with an unpredictable and violent temper, struggles to hide his murderous past. Fleeing the manor house where he worked as a servant with his brothers, Jacob is drafted into Cromwell's army and is soon befriended by Christopher Ferris, a gregarious, secret homosexual. He convinces Jacob to desert the army and live with him in London. Once there, Christopher dreams of starting a farming commune, while Jacob is content to live the city life. Even though Christopher is ever forgiving of Jacob's outbursts, the two cannot ultimately hide their relationship, evade the past, and survive their own demons. Published in the United Kingdom two years ago to critical acclaim, McCann's brilliant debut is an eloquent narrative that is historically rich and enthralling. American readers, especially those who enjoyed Sarah Waters's Tipping the Velvet, will rejoice. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Karen T. Bilton, Somerset Cty. Lib., Bridgewater, NJ Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.