Searching for the divine – Jeremy de Quidt’s The Feathered Man

Jeremy de Quidt’s The Feathered Man, his second novel, continues the same strong style which he showed in The Toymaker. Neither of this novels shy away from difficult subjects and assume that his readers will pick up clues rather than having to explain everything.

Klaus, a tooth-puller’s boy, finds himself the prey in a hunt for a diamond after his master steals it from the mouth of a dead client at Frau Drecht’s house. Drecht wants the gold teeth but when the feathered man appears, Klaus’s life becomes far more difficult. Drecht’s put upon servant, Liesel, decides to help Klaus and to help him when the Feathered Man appears.

The chase intensifies when Father Henriquez, a Jesuit priest who is searching for proof of God, and Ramon, an Aztec priest, and Karolus, a professor of anatomy who has been chasing the dead man, join in the chase. The man had been the foreman of a mine who had discovered a man in feathers. De Quidt folds in the pre-Columbian belief in child sacrifice and ways of seeing the boundaries between life and death.

In the Toymaker, de Quidt asked similar questions in his construction of the puppet. Pullman had used von Kleist’s essay, On the Marionette Theatre, in His Dark Materials but de Quidt took it somewhere else with a very real puppet who lived in the world. He mused on the notion of the creation of life and whether it might have a soul, taking one of the perspectives of Frankenstein ina different direction. In The Feathered Man, he muses on whether a god might exist and the lengths to which the question is approached, from a sacrifice to chasing proof. In all it appears to be futile but perennial in its asking. He also muses on the nature of riches and their meaning: is the chase to prove the existence of God any more or less worthy than Frau Drecht’s obsession with the diamond and gold teeth.

His style really stands out though, not so much in its darkness but its depth. Drawing from the German Romantic tradition, he is unafraid to ask big questions but also adapts them to changing times. He becomes an active part of the bazaar of stories, taking and remoulding as required. De Quidt is a diamond of children’s fantasy in that he asks larger questions and presents novels which continue asking questions long after the final page has been reached.

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