The Huntingfield Paintress

by Pamela Holmes, Urbane Publications, £9

Reading this novel sent me off to the depths of rural Suffolk, to the village of Huntingfield, so I could see for myself the phenomenon which it describes – a medieval church, restored in Victorian times, and painted up to the nines by Mildred Holland, wife of the then vicar. My journey was not wasted.

The church is truly stunning, with bright gilded angels singing from the beams, and saints and martyrs chanting in every roof panel – not merely in the chancel, but all the way down the nave. A note at the end of the book tells us that the author visited the church five years ago. “It was obvious Mildred’s story was waiting to be told. I hope I have done it justice”.

This reviewer can only say to the author – “Indeed, you have.” Pamela Holmes is a blues singer, a health journalist and a volunteer with dementia patients. This is her first novel and it is a stunning debut.

Yes, it tells the story of how a very determined woman during the late 1850s and 1860s came to decorate an entire church, doing grave damage to her back as she became the Michelangelo of East Suffolk.

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