18 February 2021, The Tablet

Francis Spufford - grace under pressure

The Tablet Interview

Francis Spufford - grace under pressure

Francis Spufford
Photo: Eamonn McCabe


The writer on why his new novel is shot through with themes of mercy and forgiveness, and how a ‘self-procured’ personal crisis led to a renewal of faith

In the past 12 months since I started peeping into the homes of friends, ­colleagues and interviewees via Zoom meetings, there have been plenty of moments of envy over the views I have spied out of the window of their studies and home offices. Francis Spufford’s, though, takes top prize. He swivels his laptop round to show me mullioned panes, with a light dusting of snow, and beyond it Ely Cathedral, one of Britain’s most beautiful church buildings. His wife, Jessica Martin, is a residentiary canon there, and this is their tied cottage, shared with their teenaged daughter, Theodora – somewhere “out of the wind”, as he puts it.

To have such inspiration on hand each time you glance up seems tailor-made to nourish great writing, and in Spufford’s case it has certainly worked its magic. After a run of well-received non-fiction titles – including 2012’s Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense, where as “a writer who ­happens to be a Christian” he took on Richard Dawkins and the angry mob of new atheists – four years later Spufford turned his attention triumphantly to fiction with Golden Hill, a pitch-perfect take on the eighteenth-century novel, set in New York. It won him a slew of awards, including the Costa First Novel prize.

Get Instant Access

Continue Reading

Register for free to read this article in full

Subscribe for unlimited access

From just £30 quarterly

  Complete access to all Tablet website content including all premium content.
  The full weekly edition in print and digital including our 179 years archive.
  PDF version to view on iPad, iPhone or computer.

Already a subscriber? Login