After a decade in one South Seas mission, a London bank-clerk-turned-minister sets his heart on serving a remote volcanic island. Fanua contains neither cannibals nor Christians, but its citizens, his superior warns, are like children—immoral children. Still, Mr. Timothy Fortune lights out for Fanua. Yet after three years, he has made only one convert, and his devotion to the boy may prove more sensual than sacred. Mr. Fortune’s Maggot, Sylvia Townsend Warner’s second novel, is lyrical, droll, and deeply affecting, and her missionary captivated his creator as much as he did her readers.
Long after the book’s publication, Warner began the novella The Salutation. Now adrift and starving on the Brazilian pampas, Mr. Fortune is rescued by an elderly widow, who delights in having an Englishman about the house. Her heir, however, may beg to differ.
Brilliant and subversive, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot and its sequel are now available for the first time ever in one volume. They show Sylvia Townsend Warner at the height of her powers.
Her satire, so humorous, so warm, so finely feminine, has the depth and reach that brutally naturalistic rendition of a life-surface can never attain; and the fairy-like locale of her story, her impossible islanders, and her slightly mad, quixotic hero admit the entrance of beauty and wit….
Her writing is full of melodic skills…[which allow] her rhythmically to evoke the speaking voice, so that the humdrum and the exotic can lie close alongside. Her sentences move like talk between intimates. Perhaps that is why this quizzical tale is so intensely moving.
—Gillian Beer, New Statesman
At long last I pulled down from its place on the shelves Sylvia Townsend Warner’s plump little novel impishly titled Mr. Fortune’s Maggot and was once again amazed by what a witty, poetic, clairvoyant writer this English woman was.
— John Updike
Original, elegant and hypnotically strange.
—Miranda Seymour, The New York Times
One of our most idiosyncratic, courageous and versatile writers.