Now is the Time
At the end of May 1381, the fourteen-year-old King of England had reason to be fearful: the plague had returned, the royal coffers were empty and a draconian Poll Tax was being widely evaded. Yet Richard, bolstered by his powerful, admired mother, felt secure in his God-given right to reign. Within two weeks, the unthinkable happened: a vast force of common people invaded London, led by a former soldier, Walter Tyler, and the radical preacher John Ball, demanding freedom, equality and the complete uprooting of the Church and State. They believed they were rescuing the King from his corrupt ministers, and that England had to be saved. And for three intense, violent days, it looked as if they would sweep all before them. In this gripping novel, Melvyn Bragg brings an extraordinary episode in English history to fresh, urgent life on both a grand and intimate scale, vividly portraying its central figures. It is an archetypal tale of an epic struggle between the powerful and the apparently powerless.
ficQuite simply one of the best writers we have Sunday Telegraph Melvyn Bragg is slowly cementing his place among the aristocrats of English fiction -- Dave Robson Sunday Telegraph Praise for GRACE AND MARY: - A beautiful book, elegant, restrained and full of nuanced meditations on the nature of identity -- Julia Molony Independent on Sunday Bragg's detailed evocation of the Wigton of his youth, the people that lived there, the beauty of the Cumbrian scenery, the lively sense of the region's long and varied history, is delightful. It's a novel that deserves to be read slowly, the details cherished. -- Allan Massie Scotsman The novel's multiple narratives are skilfully teased out from John's attempts to prolong meaningful life for his mother by stimulating her failing memory ... For each generation, Bragg suggests, a key component of the quest is coming to terms with the past - a feat that his quietly intense novel pulls off with joy, sorrow and precision. -- David Grylls The Sunday Times Beautifully conveys how the past is a continuum that constantly feeds our consciousness of the present, altering its current and direction. It is starkly truthful about the perils of ageing. But it is also a convincing testimony to familial love, and its power to prompt the imagination in the service of a more generous understanding ... It is a gem. -- Salley Vickers Independent In a contemporary literary landscape of middlebrow experimentalism and over-hyped, over-long soap operas, a Bragg novel will usually remind you of fiction's traditional virtues: plot, psychology, carefully observed descriptions of landscape and people, a thoughtfulness about the passage of time and the damage done by history. The book feels deeply personal; but it moves us, as the best fiction does, because of its universality. It is a rich book and a thoughtful one ... A remarkable performance. -- Kevin Power Sunday Business Post, Ireland I loved it. It's a great achievement to have brought these women so tenderly, compassionately, warmly and respectfully to life Pat Barker A little masterpiece. With infinite skill and tenderness he has homed in upon a crucial, contemporary dilemma - the problem of ageing parents with dementia - and has produced a life-affirming work packed with wisdom, insight and profound observations about the human condition. Val Hennessey A complex and absorbing meditation on time and memory, made all the more poignant by its refusal to succumb to the temptation of wearing its heart on its sleeve. Clare Morgan A beautiful, tender novel that evokes the spirit of Thomas Hardy while dealing with the very relevant issue of dementia. Highly recommended. Weekly Review, Australia Bragg's high-profile TV presence has tended to distract from his literary achievements, but this understated tale of three Cumbrian generations is one of his most heartfelt works. Mail on Sunday This is memoir in the guise of fiction, and Melvyn Bragg unveils his mother's and grandmother's lives in a way that will live long in the memory. The small Cumbrian town of the writer's youth is vividly evoked, as are the beauty of the scenery and the rich and varied history of that northwestern English county. What stands out most, though, is the loving and respectful way the two brave women at the heart of Bragg's story are brought to life. Irish Times
Melvyn Bragg is a writer and broadcaster. His novels include The Hired Man, for which he won the Time/Life Silver Pen Award, Without a City Wall, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, The Soldier's Return, winner of the WHSmith Literary Award, A Son of War and Crossing the Lines, both of which were longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, A Place in England, which was longlisted for the Lost Man Booker Prize, and most recently Grace and Mary. He has also written several works of non-fiction, including The Book of Books about the King James Bible. He lives in London and Cumbria.