4x4th Estate: Keeping the Faith

4 books that probe the limits of belief, recommended to you by us at 4th Estate.


The Spire by William Golding

Jocelin, Dean of a medieval Cathedral, becomes obsessed with what he believes to be a vision from God. He must erect a four-hundred-foot spire despite the fact his Cathedral stands precariously on silt and clay. Against the advice of the master builder, the spire goes up stone by stone, testing the fragile foundations of Jocelin’s beliefs. Golding wrote this remarkable stream-of-consciousness narrative in just two weeks. It is a manic, dark, and ambivalent portrait of zealous faith and ranks among the Nobel Prize winning author’s best work.


Fludd by Hilary Mantel 

It is the 1950s, and Mantel’s fictional town of Fetherhoughton is cocooned in superstition, fortified against reason by the expansive, surrounding moors. Father Angwin, the village priest, has lost his faith, and Sister Philomena strains against the monotony of convent life and the pettiness of her fellow nuns. Mantel paints a stark picture of a town in which the reliance upon rituals has lost all meaning. Yet all of that is about to change. A strange visitor appears one stormy night, bringing with him the hint, the taste of something entirely new, something unknown.

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  Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Oscar is an Anglican priest. Lucinda, an heiress seeking a worthy cause. And neither can resist the odd flutter; Oscar, addicted to the racetrack, while Lucinda scandalises society with her passion for cards. What unites them is the greatest gamble of all – belief. Oscar wagers he can transport a glass church over the inhospitable Australian outback. Lucinda places her faith in Oscar. This Booker-prize winner is a subtle and passionate love story.


 Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Kambili’s entire world is defined by the dictates of her repressive and fanatically religious father. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study and more prayer. But when Nigeria is flung into a military coup, Kambili is sent to live with her aunt, and we witness the dismantling of these rigid routines. Purple Hibiscus is about the blurred lines between the old gods and the new, childhood and adulthood, love and hatred – the grey spaces in which truths are revealed and real life is lived.


With thanks to Robin Forrester for his contribution to this post.

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