A Fifth of November
Fiction by Paul West
In A Fifth of November, Paul West creates a mesmerizing tale with the events surrounding the English Gunpowder Plot (1605). Instigated by thirteen Catholic conspirators, most famously Guy Fawkes, the Plot was a failed attempt to blow up the English Parliament and King James I. At the heart of West’s novel are the trials of Father Henry Garnet, superior of the English Jesuits, who is hidden from the king’s henchmen behind the walls of English mansions. Shielding him from harm is the melancholy noblewoman Anne Vaux, a Catholic sympathizer. A Fifth of November tells the tale of Garnet: from when he first hears of the plot––the conspirators have confessed their plan to him, what is his responsibility?––to his imprisonment in the Tower of London. All along, the figures who partake of this historical moment are brightly, often horrifically, drawn. In A Fifth of November, West tackles through his rhapsodic language, brilliant characterizations, and historical precision that inevitable topic: human evil.