Divine revelations: I, Julian, by Claire Gilbert, reviewed

Claire Gilbert considers Julian of Norwich to be the mother of English literature, and believes she should stand alongside Chaucer. What seems indisputable is that Julian was the author of the first work written in English by a woman. This rather wonderful fictional autobiography was published to coincide with the 650th anniversary of Julian first experiencing, in May 1373, the series of 16 visions she wrote about in Revelations of Divine Love. It comes garlanded with praise from, among others, Jeremy Irons and Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury. In Gilbert’s account, Julian was just a child when she watched her father, a Norwich wool merchant, die in agony

Why Ronald Blythe is so revered

Ronald Blythe, the celebrated author of Akenfield, is to turn 100 next month, and to mark his centenary a beguiling calendrical selection has been made of his ruminations for the Church Times, for which as a lay reader he penned a weekly ‘Word from Wormingford’. It is distilled from 25 years of musings that chase the months from first ghostly intimations of snow at New Year to the blaze of the fire at Wood Hall’s mid-winter supper, while outside ‘the trees crack and the moon is made of ice’. Coming full circle and anticipating the ever-repeating rhythms of the year, they glance between past and present, sacred and secular and

The difficulty of building heaven on Earth: why utopias usually fail

The years after the first world war were a boom time for utopian communities. As the survivors of the conflict began to recover, many were drawn towards experimental ways of living. Anna Neima looks at six of these communities, asking what brought them together, what kept them going and what legacy, if any, they left behind. In doing so, she offers an original perspective on the entire period and a new way of navigating its artistic and ideological upheaval. She begins with Santiniketan Sriniketan, the community founded by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore in West Bengal. Part ashram, part school, part agricultural college, it promoted the twin causes of