Anyone for Edmund? by Simon Edge is a contemporary satirical story set in the UK, based on Saint Edmund, former patron saint of England (before Saint George).
Archaeologists have found the remains of St Edmund, after being lost for over 500 years. The new Saint is then reburied in the Cathedral at Bury St Edmunds. The story follows Hannah, who is a volunteer archaeologist on the dig, and her cousin, Mark Price. Mark is special adviser to Marina Spencer, currently Culture Secretary. When Marina demands ‘something new’ from Mark, on the spot he decides to suggest that St Edmund is reinstated as a patron saint, alongside St George, St Andrews, St David and St Patrick. Unfortunately, to make this seem plausible, Mark makes up facts about St Edmund — and things go rapidly downhill from there!
I really enjoyed the British setting and references to British medieval history throughout this book! Bury St Edmunds is only an hour from me, and yet I myself had never really thought about who ‘St Edmund’ is and his history.
While all of the political figures and journalists mentioned are all fictional, it felt all very up-to-date, with mentions of Brexit being at the front of Marina (and thus Mark’s) minds. St Edmund is suggested as a way to reunite the UK, and it feels all very plausible. I especially loved this section on Twitter — which again, feels very plausible and very modern!
He took the opportunity to check his phone to see whether the Times and Mail pieces had opened up any discussion on Twitter. He was pleased to see that St Edmund was trending once again. One of The Guardian’s Roedean communist columnists was trying to whip up controversy by saying it was racist to replace the foreign-born St George with a home-grown saint. Her article had become the butt of Twitter hilarity because someone had found a tweet from the same Guardianista a couple of years earlier, in which she maintained that the cross of St George was a fundamentally racist emblem. The fuss would no doubt blow itself out in a few hours, but it would be enjoyable while it lasted.
Wikipedia also plays a really big part in the story (or ‘St Wiki’, as it’s referred to a few times, which made me chuckle!). The whole book serves as a real warning against ‘fake news’, lazy journalists and making sure that you check facts — just because it’s on Wikipedia, it may not be true!
I really liked Mark. Marina is absolutely awful to him throughout the book, while being lovely to those externally — I think we have all met people like that in our lives, or had managers who behaved that way. It felt very relatable, particularly the way that his colleagues behave. Rather than uniting in solidarity, they try to ensure that they ‘one up’ each other as much as possible, which felt very realistic in a toxic workplace like this one!
The whole story is well-written, and I enjoyed the switches throughout to Edmund’s point of view. It’s a fast-paced story that kept me engaged throughout and a really fun political satire, too. If you enjoy British humour or if you’re a fan of medieval history, then you will love this book.
The blurb for Anyone for Edmund?
They dug up his bones. They didn’t know he had a mind of his own.
Under tennis courts in the ruins of a great abbey, archaeologists find the remains of St Edmund, once venerated as England’s patron saint, but lost for half a millennium.
Culture Secretary Marina Spencer, adored by those who have never met her, scents an opportunity. She promotes Edmund as a new patron saint for the United Kingdom, playing up his Scottish, Welsh and Irish credentials. Unfortunately these are pure fiction, invented by Mark Price, her downtrodden aide, in a moment of panic.
The only person who can see through the deception is Mark’s cousin Hannah, a member of the dig team. Will she blow the whistle or help him out? And what of St Edmund himself, watching through the prism of a very different age?
Splicing ancient and modern as he did in The Hopkins Conundrum and A Right Royal Face-Off, Simon Edge pokes fun at Westminster culture and celebrates the cult of a medieval saint in another beguiling and utterly original comedy.
About the author, Simon Edge
Simon Edge was born in Chester and read philosophy at Cambridge University.
He was editor of the pioneering London paper Capital Gay before becoming a gossip columnist on the Evening Standard and then a feature writer on the Daily Express, where he was also a theatre critic for many years. He has an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London, where he also taught literary criticism.
He is the author of three previous novels: The Hopkins Conundrum, which was longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award, The Hurtle of Hell and A Right Royal Face-Off.
He lives in Suffolk.