The Hopkins Manuscript, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (4 ratings)


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Persephone Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Science fiction
  • ISBN: 9781903155486



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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

Edgar Hopkins, a gentleman, retired school master, poultry breeder and amateur astronomer left this manuscript/journal behind so that future generations would know about the cataclysm and the disaster that followed. The cataclysm refers to a time when the moon crashed into the earth, landing in the Atlantic ocean. The floods and weather changes that followed killed a large percentage of the population of Europe. Hopkins and three other survivors from the English village of Beadle rebuild their little village and their lives by farming, hunting and eventually trading with a nearby town. After a few years of rebuilding things seem to be looking good for the future. However, men who are greedy for power and wealth manage to gain positions of leadership and the man made disaster that follows may accomplish what the cataclysm did not - the end of life as we know it.This book was written in the late 1930s. It is a political satire about the situation in Europe at that time and what Sherriff ( who fought in WWI) thought of as complacency and the same old attitude of the British government and people. This book was a compelling, easy read. Highly recommended.

Review by

This marvellous, disturbing novel is very different from what one might call the 'typical Persephone' title. Indeed, had it not been published (re-published, rather) by Persephone, I might not have read it, as science fiction isn't one of my favourite genres.First published in 1939, the story is narrated by 53-year-old Edgar Hopkins, a rather pompous ex-schoolmaster. Content to spend the rest of his life in the small village of Beadle, breeding poultry, he is stunned to say the least when he learns that the moon is drawing gradually nearer to the earth, and in fact it is estimated to strike the earth in seven months' time.Because of the way the book is structured, we know that the world is not destroyed in 'the cataclysm' - we know that it survives for at least another seven years. The people of Beadle react in a way that anticipates what would later be called 'the spirit of the blitz'. In London, on the other hand, there existed 'no such bond of community life' - looting, suicides, and violent mobs marred an otherwise calm populace, but the heart seemed to have gone out of the place and the people.Although 'the cataclysm' devastates the earth, it is the man-made disaster some years later that really seals the planet's fate. The original, 'natural', disaster did not destroy the world. What no one anticipated was that the real danger lay in the fact that 'human nature' - the desire for wealth, for land, nationalism - remained unchanged. [July 2006]

Review by

Sheriff was an accomplished playwright, celebrated for his 1928 play Journey’s End which detailed life in the trenches during WWI. Journey’s End built on his own experiences – he was wounded at Passchendaele. I’d never heard of him before reading this book, although I had vaguely heard of Journey’s End. Reading his wiki biography, I found he was also a prolific writer of screenplays including Goodbye Mr Chips (1933) and The Dambusters. Alongside his theatre and film careers, he found time to write some novels too; The Hopkins Manuscript was his third, published in 1939 and I loved it.The story concerns the manuscript of Edgar Hopkins, written some years after the cataclysm that occurred back in May 1946 when the moon fell into the Earth. It is the only surviving account of daily life in the months leading up to, and after the disaster. Edgar is a retired schoolmaster (but still only in his late forties), who lives on the Sussex downs. He amuses himself by breeding prize-winning chickens, clipping his yew hedges and going up to London to meetings of the Lunar Society every month.The moon has been looking different lately, and at the September 1945 meeting of the society, the chairman has some top secret information to impart to the privileged and esteemed members – the moon is falling towards the earth and they mustn’t tell anyone. Hopkins, who is a rather self-important fellow, is shocked and pleased in equal measure. He feels it his duty to carry on life as normal, but ere long it becomes obvious even to the man in the street, that the moon is getting nearer and the Government lifts the embargo on the press.Surprisingly not everyone starts running around like Chicken Licken screaming the end of the world is nigh. The memories of WWI are still there, and everyone joins in with preparations for the impact in building dug-outs etc. Hopkins though is rather put out that the event affects the local poultry show in which his prize hen Broodie is entered..."When I entered the hall I found it barely a quarter full, and Pomfret Wilkins, the Secretary, greeted me with an exuberance that seemed, in the circumstances, a little overdone. He told me that a number of entries had been cancelled at the last moment, and that several had simply not turned up, without a word one way or the other, just as if the Show had slipped their memory as something of absolutely no importance whatever.It was all terribly depressing, and I was furiously angry that Broodie should achieve her fiftieth victory under such unworthy conditions. Some of the exhibitors put on a kind of swaggering bravado as if they were heroes to have come at all, and the judges carried out their responsible duties with an impatience and a carelessness that was a lasting disgrace.There were scarcely a dozen people left in the Hall when the prizes were distributed, and the Chairman’s mind was so hopelessly off his duty that he completely forgot that it was customary to invite an exhibitor to say a few words when one of his hens achieved a specially notable distinction.He apologised when I reminded him, but there were only eight people left when I began my speech. AlthoughI spoke for less than fifteen minutes, three of these people actually left in the middle of it, and the others turned out to be the five men who were waiting to take the platform away when I had finished. In the circumstances it is not surprising that my carefully prepared joke, about Broodie receiving big offers to star in a film, completely misfired. It was received in silence, and I was very glad, as I have already said, to start back to my own village of Beadle again."Edgar is similarly condescending to the vicar, and the pub landlord. But the impending doom does finally begin to humanise him and he begins to prepare, to make himself useful, and befriends the family who live on the opposite side of the valley to him – the Major’s teenaged children Pat and Robin seem to take to him, and after the disaster will give him a purpose in life as they finish growing up. We start out disliking this pompous little man who cares only for his chickens, but by the end of the book we’re glad to have known him.The book starts out in an almost jocular vein after the intro as Edgar goes about his business, but as the disaster draws ever nearer, the tone changes. There are some great scenes of stiff upper lips and trench-style camaraderie, but none is more evocative than the last village cricket match on the night of the impact. After the moon crashes, life becomes much more serious – as at first the survivors have to learn to survive. Then, as society begins to pick itself up again, politics rears its ugly head over the fate of the moon, and we begin our descent into the abyss – for there’s always some kind of abyss in a dystopian novel.Obviously influenced by HG Wells, Sheriff has used his own wartime experiences to great effect in this study of the human condition in adversity. Like many others which follow, e.g. John Christopher’s The Death of Grass, which I reviewed here, everything will revert to chaos; entropy rules and the results are rarely in mankind’s favour. However I don’t mean to depress you, for I really loved this book. (10/10)An interesting introduction by Michael Moorcock, and an afterword about the science by Big Bang theorist Professor George Gamow provide useful bookends to the main event, and the lovely endpapers feature a blazing sun.

Review by

'At midnight on the 12th February this year the moon had drawn nearer to the earth by 3583 miles, July 7, 2014This review is from: The Hopkins Manuscript (Paperback)I don't normally read sci-fi, but was tempted by this being a Persephone publication - and I really enjoyed it.Set in the 1930s, it's narrated by Edgar Hopkins, a pompous little ex-schoolmaster, whose life revolves around his poultry and membership of the Lunar Society. When he and a few select others are made privy to the fact that the moon is approaching the earth, and will collide in 7 months, life is set to change forever...The first half of the novel was to my mind the most interesting, covering the lead-up to the Event. When the government finally announce it to the population at large, there's a general sense of cameraderie and team-spirit, as people undertake the building of a dug-out - yet there's an underlying feeling that it won't be too dreadful, as shown in the debate on rules for the dug-out:"A lady asked whether knitting or needlework would be allowed, and the Committee, after a brief discussion, agreed to the loose, handy type but forbade tapestry frames, etc"What happens after the collision, and how the Earth rallies, forms the second half of the novel...Very much influenced by world events at the time of publication (1939), this is extremely readable, entertaining, and quite scary at times:'I thought of it no longer as the moon; it hung like a great amber pock-marked lamp above a billiard-table, so vast and enveloping that the little white-clad cricketers moved without shadows.'