Book - 2008
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The story of a notorious shipwreck that had prompted Gerard Manley Hopkins to break years of silence with an outpouring of dazzling poetry.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780374150976
Characteristics: 227 p. ; 22 cm.


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Sep 15, 2016

In 1875, the steamship Deutschland, bound for America, struck a sandbar off the coast of England and sank. Among the dead were five German Franciscan nuns, fleeing Bismarck's campaign against the Catholic Church, headed to Carondelet, Missouri to teach in the large German community there. According to survivors' accounts, the five stood in a circle as the ship sank, calling out, "O Christ, come swiftly!" At Stonyhurst, an estate in Lancashire owned by the Society of Jesus, a superior remarked to a young novice that the event ought to be immortalized in poetry. The novice was Gerard Manley Hopkins, and his poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland, marked the resurrection of an aborted poetic career which would leave an indelible mark on English literature before his own early death at the age of 44.

Exiles tells the life stories of the nuns and Hopkins in parallel, with the wreck as the nexus connecting them. It is difficult to tell how much is invented - Hansen (author of Mariette in Ecstasy and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) not only presents selections from Hopkins' letters as letters but also inserts other passages from his writings into his dialogue; the nuns, on the other hand, are less historically rooted. The whole forms a compelling exploration of the nature of religious vocation and the communion of saints.

Jul 21, 2016

A very vividly written account of a shipwreck off the coast of England. Interweaved through the story is Gerard Manly Hopkins and his poetry, hard though rewarding.


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