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In the years after the Norman Conquest, a guild of painters are brought from France to Sussex to decorate the austere Saxon churches with murals. They go about their work among a people still hostile to them.

In the village of Hardham, Guy, one of the painters, encounters Truda, a farmer’s daughter, and she becomes the inspiration for the figure of Eve in his mural. When the painters have left the village, Truda discovers she is carrying Guy’s child. She follows him to Lewes Priory only to find he has already returned to France.

Given refuge by the monks, Truda begins to manifest a strange power over nature. This encourages the local population to believe the child she carries is the long awaited Messiah.

Stephen Plaice’s visionary novel transports us to 12th century Sussex, and captures the fervour that impelled the ordinary poor into rebellion and crusade.

Read the first chapter online exclusively for Parvenu Press.

Publication Date: September 21st, 2021
Price: £25 : postage free

Stephen Plaice is well known as a poet, playwright, and international librettist. He has lived in Sussex for most of his adult life, and much of his work is inspired by its history and landscape. He was writer-in-residence at Lewes Prison for seven years, and is currently Professor of Dramatic Writing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Reviews for The Hardham Divine

‘I thought the descriptions of the natural world were astonishingly rich and knowledgeable as well as being poetic; ‘knowledgeable’, too, is the only word to describe the understanding of the ancient crafts of wall-painting and sculpting. Not that any of this is either obtrusive or merely academic – it serves to support the narrative and make it all the more convincing. And I loved the way you handled the miraculous events with just the right tone, mixing the down-to-earth and factual with the inexplicable, evanescent and revelatory. Marvellous. And it’s a handsomely produced book, too, which added to the enormous pleasure I had reading it. It’ll stay with me for a long time.’
Jonathan Taylor

‘I’ve found it an immensely enjoyable and engrossing read, taking me into early 12th century Sussex and France.
There is something a little reminiscent of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth in the setting, but The Hardham Divine is a superior read in so many ways: the quality of the writing, the research and the scholarship. Although the storyline becomes gripping as a page-turner, the measured writing maintains a sense of substance and authenticity throughout, interspersed with Latin, genuine archaic Sussex, French and Occitan dialect.
I sincerely hope the book receives the wide acclaim that it deserves. I am sure that the storyline and the very quality of the writing would ensure a generalised appeal and success in the literary world. A great read.’
David King