The Rev Merrily (what a magnificent name!) Watkins

Via Clerical Detectives.

BTW : I too think that this name is a work of genius. Considering her job as THE Diocesan Exorcist…Sorry Deliverance Minister as they are called now.

And she is Anglican, not Catholic.

And she has baggage.

And she has a very turbulent relationship with her teenage daughter.

And she gets many things wrong because of her innate innocence.

And she….!

Wine of Angels introduces the craziness of Merrily’s world.

Every single book is very dense with – as in filled – details that can overwhelm the 1 minuter Comic book Readers.

Foreshadowing is used impeccably. In fact, so well that you almost always miss it.

The characters, once introduced, are unforgettable.

The storylines/plot meander hither and thither and back again.

And it takes several readings to actually GET what has been said and done. And WHY.

The Rev Merrily Watkins
(creator: Phil Rickman)
Phil Rickman
The Rev Merrily (what a magnificent name!) Watkins had suddenly been widowed when her crooked lawyer husband had been killed in a UK motorway crash, leaving her with a teenage daughter, Jane. She’d already enrolled at a theology college, although she “spent whole nights fuming about some of the crap they threw at you”. She then worked as a curate in a tough forsaken area of Liverpool before coming, as priest-in-charge, to Lewardine, a country parish in Herefordshire. She later became a Deliverance Minister, concerned with evil spirits and exorcisms.

Her daughter Jane is a basically sensible, if rebellious, teenager with very much a mind of her own. Her reaction, when she sees her mother praying in the bedroom that they are temporarily sharing, is: “Oh, shit. Do you really have to do that in here?” The relationship between her and her mother provides a continual source of tension and of interest.Merrily herself is described as a “very pretty” 36-year-old, and “a small dark-haired person”. Or, as one of her more lustful churchwardens put it, she was a “little dolly of of a clergyperson … nice legs, dinky titties”. According to her daughter, she “smoked like a chimney”. Merrily and her daughter both seem very aware, and frightened, of a strange supernatural world, just around the corner. It is this that that gives these books their edge – and every now and then takes them right over the top.Phil Rickman began as a journalist, working in newspapers and then as a radio and TV reporter for BBC Wales, where he presents the book programme, Phil the Shelf, for BBC Radio Wales. His first books were supernatural thrillers, then he began his Merrily Watkins series, which he describes as “crime and mystery with spiritual and paranormal undertones”.He also writes under the names of Will Kingdom and (for children’s books) Thom Madley. He lives with his wife Carol in a medieval farmhouse on the Welsh Border.The Wine of Angels (1998)
The Wine of Angels is, like the rest of the series, a long book: 629 pages in the paperback edition, even if there are not all that many words to the page. You can’t help feeling that it would have been better, shorter. But it’s a lively, interesting story about how the Rev Merrily Watkins tries to be accepted as the vicar (or priest-in-charge as she insists she ought to be called) in the country parish of Ledwardine, steeped as it is in cider and secrets and echoes of the poet Thomas Traherne who was once based in the area. Accompanied by her rather difficult 15 year old daughter Jane, she finds the huge and apparently haunted vicarage, and some of the more formidable residents, far from welcoming.Shades of Rickman’s previous horror books still recur: it can all get very sinister, and you are never quite sure whether the odd thumps in the night and visions of the past are really happening or are just dreams. Even at Merrily’s installation by the bishop, she “shivered as, for wild glowing moments, the walls of the church seemed to curve together, the pews warping, the congregation coalescing, faces blending into pink pulp” before “she fell forward into her own thin vomit”. Then there’s a local suicide in a haunted orchard, a bitter dispute about Wil Williams (an odd, possibly homosexual, 17th century cleric who’d been accused of witchcraft and had committed suicide), and the sudden disappearance of Jane’s new friend, precocious 16 year old Colette, and another murder. So there’s plenty going on, and it all manages to hold the interest, despite the author’s unnecessarily disjointed style which leads him to follow one character up to a exciting moment then immediately cut away to another character, so as to keep us hooked. This is a perfecty legitimate device, but Rickman overdoes it.However, it’s a very refreshingly unsentimental view of village life, with neither the incomers or the oldtimers emerging unscathed. And it seems that Merrily herself may have the potential to develop into a really interesting character.

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