‘Fame Is The Spur’ by Howard Spring is a mammoth read, almost Trollopian. I was looking for books on Manchester, since luckily for us we are moving nearby, and this was recommended by Jonathan Schofield in his ‘Guide To Manchester’ a superb book in itself which I have mentioned before. Then I remembered that my Mother read a lot of Howard Spring and she had reasonably good taste, so……I note that one reviewer said that late nineteenth and early twentieth century novels are out of fashion and so they are. But they really shouldn’t be. This was my surprise read of the year. I would go so far as to say it is one of the very best books I have read for a long long time. It’s the lifetime’s journey of John Hamer Shawcross whose story takes him from the hunger, filth and fragility of the back streets of Manchester in Victorian times to the greasy pole of politics where he climbs to the top and joins the elite whom he was fighting against in his radical days. The Introduction is by Tristram Hunt a well-respected historian, and he equates it, as others have, to a rebuke of Ramsay MacDonald who betrayed the Labour Party (in many people’s eyes at the time) by joining the National Government in order to stay in power. Certainly there are parallels and who isn’t gripped by a study of someone selling their soul? Spring covers a lot of the key events from Peterloo to Women’s Suffrage, but they are not dragged into the story, they naturally evolve with our characters. And these characters are very strongly drawn indeed. They are all memorable and some of the most memorable are the fiesty females. The early stages are all about ‘Chapel’ which was very important at the time, and I was fearing we might get bogged down in the minutia of religious divisions, but not a bit of it. It was the sort of book I couldn’t wait to pick up in order to resume my reading, well-written, gripping and with lessons to show. Absolutely brilliant. I must read more Howard Spring.