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By Mary Novik

"St Paul's cathedral stands like a cornered beast on Ludgate hill, taking deep breaths above the smoke. the hearth has made terrifying development within the evening and is last in at the historic monument from 3 instructions. outfitted of huge stones, the cathedral is held to be invincible, yet abruptly Pegge sees what the flames covet: the 2 hundred and fifty ft of scaffolding erected round the damaged tower. as soon as the flames have a foothold at the wood scaffolds, they could leap to the lead roof, and as soon as the timbers burn and the vaulting cracks, the cathedral might be toppled by way of its personal mass, a royal endure introduced down through universal dogs." (p.9)

It is the good hearth of 1666. The implementing edifice of St. Paul's Cathedral, a landmark of London because the 12th century, is being diminished to rubble by way of the flames that engulf the City.

In the holocaust, Pegge and a small workforce of guys fight to save lots of the effigy of her father, John Donne, well-known love poet and the nice Dean of St. Paul's. Making their method in the course of the warmth and confusion of the streets, they come at Paul's wharf. Pegge's husband, William Bowles, anxiously scans the wretched scene, unexpectedly figuring out why Pegge has requested him to satisfy her at this determined spot.

The tale in the back of this dramatic rescue starts 40 years ahead of the fireplace. Pegge Donne continues to be a rebellious lady, already too shrewdpermanent for a global that values studying merely in males, whilst her father starts arranging marriages for his 5 daughters, together with Pegge. Pegge, even though, is desirous to style the all-consuming wish that ended in her mom and dad' clandestine marriage, infamous all through England for shattering social conference and for uplifting the most erotic and profound poetry ever written. She units out to win the affection of Izaak Walton, a guy infatuated along with her older sister.

Stung by means of Walton's rejection and jealous of her bodily mature sisters, the boyish Pegge turns into confident that it's her personal father who understands the key of affection. She collects his poems, hoping to piece jointly her mom and dad' background, trying to find a few connection to the mummy she slightly knew.

Intertwined with Pegge's compelling voice are these of Ann extra and John Donne, telling us of the courtship that encouraged many of the world's maximum poetry of affection and actual longing. Donne's seduction leads Ann to desert social conference, chance her father's definite wrath, and elope with Donne. it's the undoing of his profession and the 2 are left to fight in a wedding that ends up in her demise in her 12th childbirth at age thirty-three.

In Donne's ultimate days, Pegge attempts, in ways in which push the bounds of daughterly behaviour, to find the major to unencumber her personal sexuality. After his loss of life, Pegge nonetheless struggles to loose herself from an obsession that threatens to force her past the limits of cause. Even after she marries, she can't suppress her independence or her wish to event striking love.

Conceit brings to existence the teeming, bawdy streets of London, the intrigue-ridden court docket, and the lushness of the seventeenth-century English nation-state. it's a tale of many forms of love — erotic, familial, unrequited, and obsessive — and the unpredictable workings of the human middle. With characters plucked from the pages of background, Mary Novik's debut novel is a chic, fully-imagined tale of lives you will discover not easy to depart behind.

From the Hardcover edition.

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King James refused, announcing, i do know Mr Donne has the skills of a discovered divine and should end up a robust preacher, and my wish is to desire him that method, and in that method and no different. No guy was once much less fitted to being a clergyman, yet you put approximately getting ready. You known as on your scattered verses rapidly from buddies, pondering to post them if you nonetheless may. whenever you have been out, I lit a candle on your library below the portrait of Jack Donne as a brooding lover. Rank satires and elegies have been unfold throughout your table—verses your pals had idea worthy saving that I had by no means visible. the feminine physique was once anatomized with its ripe menstruous boils and sweaty breasts, its warts, weals, and striking pores and skin, its limbs strung up like sun-parched quarters at the urban gates. A man’s member used to be likened to the mouth of a fired gun pouring scorching liquid metals right into a woman’s physique. Who may have notion poetry to have such malice in it? Your puns on my identify have been odious. used to be this all that I had intended to you, this vulgar act? Worst of all was once the poem that mocked our marriage ceremony evening in Lincoln’s hotel. i used to be in simple terms seventeen, and my pretense to womanliness used to be yet a girl’s bravado. The stain at the white linen terrified me, yet you referred to as it our cut price of blood, the baptism of our joint soul. “Now none can do treason to us,” you guaranteed me, “except one in every of us . ” That morning, as you sweetened my ache together with your arms, i presumed I heard the relocating spheres, basically to find it used to be the legislations scholars creating a din open air our window. you probably did no longer mock me then, yet gave me your marriage ceremony gift—a very small notice, intercourse. So lengthy and seductive in my ear, so clean with new that means, I swear you had invented it that second. Twelve years after that lengthy midwinter evening, you took a priest’s vows and cut up our soul aside. You bought your self to God at the very day and on the very hour that Pegge fought her approach out of my exhausted womb. striking down Drury lane like a drunken guy, giddy with doctrine, you probably did now not even investigate the birthing room till morning. After my churching in St Clement’s, you pulled me into our bedchamber, your palms damp from the font. Pushing upwards to an aching sweetness i couldn't carry to, I conceived one other baby, but if my monthlies stopped, so did your visits to my mattress. Coupling whereas i used to be great-bellied was once no larger than adultery in response to the church fathers. as soon as an all over the place, our bedchamber was once now too cramped to your ambition. You moved to a extra spacious room, provided with a feather mattress from woman Drury. in a single day, you reworked your previous into an apprenticeship becoming for a royal chaplain. figuring out to not post your poems in the end, you thanked God for supplying you from the Egypt of lust and from the Egypt of family cares, during which you intended your various teenagers and a spouse who may now not meet you in dialog. that kid died in my womb, too younger even to count number, and shortly I had conceived one other. your kids had turn into an annual crop to you, like acorns gathered within the woods each one autumn.

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