2 July 2013

Jane Rogers: Mr Wroe's Virgins (1991)

As I mentioned in my slightly earlier post about John Wroe's former gatehouse in Ashton-under-Lyne, Mr Wroe's Virgins is a fictional recreation of the events after members of Wroe's Christian Israelite flock have granted him the seven virgins he's asked for.

The story consists of a multiple narrative told from the point of view of four of the women (who incidentally are not all virgins):

– The saintly Joanna, the 'head' sister who initially believes implicitly in the genuineness of Wroe's preachings, even to the point of sexually giving herself to him under the illusion that she will be bestowing a holy child on the community.

– The cynical and sexually supercharged Leah, who already has a child by a casual relationship, but who (with the collusion of Wroe) introduces her son Thomas into the church as an unknown mother's abandoned baby.

– The highly intelligent and socially conscious atheist Hannah, who first sees Wroe as an unwitting charlatan, but comes to view him in a far more negative light on discovering the damage he's done to Joanna.

– The disturbed Martha, who has suffered extreme abuse at the hands of her father and until the end sees Wroe as a kind of (non-religious) saviour.

The remaining three women – the handicapped Dinah (who dies), and the sisters Rachel and Rebekah – only have minor parts in the story, briefly being mentioned in passing by the narrators.

The women act as servants-cum-slaves to Wroe, although they are free anytime to go back to the parents or relatives who have already rejected them, or to test their own survival skills in the harsh economic climate outside.

In the end it is Leah who swiftly brings about the demise of the community: sexually rejected by Wroe, she falsely accuses him of rape. And although the internal enquiry finds its leader not guilty, the tale has quickly leaked through to the citizens of Ashton, who only narrowly escape meting out the 'justice' of the mob.

An intelligent and very imaginative construction.

Below is a link to another post I made about John Wroe:

John Wroe in Ashton-under-Lyne

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