Man of Blood
By Oliver Woodman
The people of England find themselves plunged into a vicious civil war when the foundations of Church and State are shaken by the demands of an emerging democracy.
Inspired by the teachings of John Calvin, some in the country are clamouring for reform of the Church while their leaders in Parliament seek to curb the political power of its ‘Supreme Governor’, the King, Charles Stuart.
But after the King’s men storm Parliament to arrest the opposition leaders, the simple folk of the beautiful Suffolk village of Monks Soham are typical of those now faced with dreadful choices and divided loyalties – to support Oliver Cromwell’s army of rebellion or to uphold the absolute power of their monarch.
It is clear to Lord of the Manor John Souter that his son Josiah must join Cromwell’s army. So too does yeoman farmer Praisegod Norton believe that they are to fight ‘the Lord’s fight’, to defeat the ‘Babylon’ of the King.
Praisegod’s trusted friend and neighbour Matthew Cleaton pledges his help.
Josiah is duly commissioned as one of Cromwell’s cavalry captains and Praisegod becomes a Corporal of Horse, before accepting the role of ‘Intelligencer’ – a spy.
What unfolds is a Bunyanesque tale of double-dealing and treachery where people are not always what they seem: the invalid Squire Sir Richard Chennery of Heathcote House; his daughter Lady Jane and her brother George, a Royalist officer; the cook Phoebe; an itinerant tinker – and Matthew Cleaton.
What are they really up to?
How far can they be trusted?
For Praisegod the path is clear, if not always well-lit or straight, but he, too, finds his faith both in God and people tested in ways he could not have imagined.
And tragedy is never far away, even for the man of blood…
Man of Blood is an engrossing historical novel, full of period detail and rich representations of attitudes and beliefs in 17th century England.
Oliver Woodman‘s working life gave him a wonderful training in the written and spoken word. But history was always a great love, as was communicating its fascination. Immersion in the seventeenth century began with childhood lectures over Sunday lunch from his father. Apart from recreating a luxuriant historical texture, Oliver Woodman’s main achievement is to look at choices from different points of view and provide an insight into how attitudes and beliefs reflect the worlds into which we are born and live.