* Jane Roger's classic bestselling novel of a nineteenth century sect, interweaving religious idealism with the beginnings of socialism
In 1830, as the end of the world approached, the charismatic, hunchbacked prophet of a religious sect settled in Lancashire heeds the biblical injunction and chooses seven virgins 'for comfort and succour'. Basing her novel on the life of the real John Wroe, a leader of a group called the Christian Israelite Church, Rogers crafts an impeccable narrative, interweaving the diverse mindsets of some of the chosen women and the prophet during the nine months of complex interaction. Part morality tale, part history, packed with accurate details of early 19th century life, the stories of Leah, Joanna, Hannah and Martha unfold as they cope with the hypocrisy, blind beliefs and idealism of the sexually threatening prophet.
Told with humour, irony and a generosity that embraces even the sinister Wroe, this is a compelling story of astonishing depth, elucidating religious idealism, the beginnings of socialism and the ubiquitous position of women as unpaid labourers.
Jane Rogers has published nine novels, written original television and radio drama, and adapted work (her own and others') for radio and TV. Her novels include Conrad and Eleanor, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, Mr Wroe's Virgins, Island, and The Voyage Home. Writing awards include the Arthur C Clarke Award, Somerset Maugham Award, Writers' Guild Best Fiction Book, BAFTA nomination best drama serial, Guardian Fiction Prize runner up and Arts Council Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and teaches the Faber Short Story Writing course.