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The Hopkins Manuscript

by RC Sherriff
Persephone book no:

56 57 58

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The Far Cry
A Well Full of Leaves
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ISBN 1903155487

This early piece of climate fiction, by the author of the play Journey's End and also of Persephone favourites The Fortnight in September and Greengates and first published in 1939, imagines what would happen if the moon crashed into the earth. 

Presented as a lost manuscript written by a retired Hampshire school teacher named Edwin Hopkins, we watch through his eyes as the moon veers off course, draws slowly closer to the earth, and finally crashes into it on May 3rd, 1946. Because it falls into the Atlantic Ocean, much of humanity survives - only to generate new disasters. But this is not science fiction in the mode of H G Wells's The War of the Worlds; it is a novel about human nature. 

The narrator Hopkins's greatest interest in life is his Bantam hens; rather self-important and lacking much sense of humour, he nevertheless emerges as an increasingly sympathetic and credible character, the ordinary man with whom we very much identify as Sherriff describes the small Hampshire village trying to prepare itself in its last days. We defy any of our readers not to be overwhelmed by the scene when the villagers staunchly play a final game of cricket by the light of the moon that 'hung like a great amber, pock-marked lamp above a billiard-table, so vast and enveloping that the little white-clad cricketers moved without shadows to their appointed places on the field.'

Sherriff's writing about this catastrophe is so convincing that in our edition of The Hopkins Manuscript we have also included a scientific explanation of the events in the book that was originally written by the Big Bang scientist George Gamow for a 1963 reprint. 

Fay Weldon chose The Hopkins Manuscript for her Summer Reading in the Observer, calling it 'spectacular, skilled and moving and supremely and alarmingly relevant to our life today', while the Sunday Telegraph called it 'intensely readable and touching.'


The endpapers are taken from 'Wangle', a 1932 dyed cotton three colour print by Enid Marx.

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Categories: Men (books about) Men (books by) Science Fiction Social Comedy

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