Alan M. Kent sadly passed away earlier this year just a few days before his 55th birthday. Hazel Mark reviews his last published novel Saffron Bun Chapel for Cornish Story.
The Saffron Bun Chapel is built as the centrepiece of the Methodist Mining community, in Upper Peninsula, Michigan State. It is set in 1900, at a time when two Cousin Jacks emigrate to America, from the exhausted mines of Cornwall to seek their fortune. They find the community named Copper Mountain, after the ore. Each miner bought over his own Knockie for help, in spite of its mischievous ways.
As the plot unfolds a foreboding sense of evil beckons from the nearby forest. There is a changeling, the Pooka, who wrecks havoc on the community. And the forest magic claims a woman as it’s own, by absorbing her into the trees, until she is released, transformed and struck mute.
Written fully in Cornu-English, the Chapel is the centre of good and evil. The subtitle “An Industrial Fairytale” is a clue about the elements of magic and the supernatural. There is a very real sense of a parallel magical world in nature, that disrupts the remote community by strange events.
I recommend the book, for the characters are so vivid, that their images stayed with me. The location has been well researched, as Kent visited the area for the Cornish Festivals. It reminds us to look beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary and we all need to believe in some magic, after the recent events of modern day life.
978 1 906551 48 3
Available from Amazon, Waterstones, Halsgrove publishers
After her degree, Hazel Mark worked in London on magazines and then for the Chicago newspaper. In 1989 she moved to Cornwall and took her PGCE at the University of Exeter, qualifying as a primary and SEN teacher. She is still working on supply in local schools, as a literacy tutor, teaching assistant and exam invigilator.