A Saint in Swindon by Alice Jolly


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When a stranger arrives in town, with a bulging blue bag and a whiff of adventure, the neighborhood takes notice. When he asks for his meals to be sent to his room and peace and quiet for reading, curiosity turns to obsession. Each day he stays there, locked in his room, demanding books: Plath, Kafka, Orwell, Lawrence, Fitzgerald, James, Bronte (the eldest), Dickens, Dumas, Kesey – on and on, the stranger never leaving his room. Who exactly is he? What is he reading? And will it be able to save us from the terrible state of the world?

Written by award-winning author Alice Jolly, and based on an idea by the book lovers of Swindon town, this funny and, ultimately, dystopian tale, reminds us of the importance of literature in an increasingly dark world.

I don’t really know what to say about this odd little book except that it can’t be characterized. Is it dystopian? Is it chick lit? Is it speculative fiction? Is it satire? Is allegorical?

I think it’s ALL of the above and more.

The concept is intriguing. Some guy shows up at a B&B, retreats to his room and reads for days on end. The B&B hostess and her nosy friends feel they must read what the guest reads, so they discover classics like Thomas Hardy and Joseph Conrad. But, they cannot shake the idea that the guest is more than he appears and that his reading is somehow subversive. Eventually, their obsession with him destroys their society.

In the end, I was left thinking if it is possible to disrupt the natural order of things through reading. Throughout history, when a civilization is threatened or conquered, the first thing to go are the books, so yeah, I think it’s reasonable to say that reading can be subversive.  This would be a magnificent selection for book clubs, who could spend hours debating the meaning behind A Saint in Swindon.

Publication Date: April 15, 2020
Published By: Fairlight Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy