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As a fan of Howatch's Starbridge series, I knew what to expect from this wonderful book and it did not disappoint! The highest compliment I can give to a narrator is that they are the wind beneath the wings of the story - not a distraction. The narration seemed flawless. The book itself? There's deft handling of dialogue from rich, fully drawn characters and an absorbing plot that fleshes out themes of personal spirituality, corporate religion, struggles with the flesh, and complicated human relationships. This book can stand alone, as all of Howatch's books may be read independently. Reading other books in the series (each narrated by a different character) gives eye opening perspective and incredible richness to Howatch's complex and fascinating world. The author wrote most of the series while living in view of the gorgeous, medieval Salisbury Cathedral in the Cathedral Close.This is a series I reread every couple of years when I begin to miss the characters - thankfully, now I can get some things accomplished while listening to these old favorites on my ipod! I highly recommend this title.
I was intrigued at first with this book. I was disappointed with it when it fianlly ended. The story is a narrative from a monk with the Church of England at the beginning of WWII, a time not often depicted in stories about monks. I soon found I was learning a great deal about the Church of England of modern times (I am old enough to see it as "modern"), but, as with most stories placed cloistered environments there was a clear definition of the characters to like and dislike, love and hate. While it felt formula-based, it was interesting all the same. Sometimes the narrator didn't seem genuine in some of the characters' statements, often inferring some attitude that I was not sure was intended. I found this a little distracting. But, as the story progressed it seemed to be taking a totally unexpected turn, moving from the monastery into the world so foreign to the 17-year monk. More interesting information about the way the Church functioned and how it reintroduced its isolated members into the traditional world. I was still enjoying it, but feeling like the story was getting lost a bit. Then the bad-buys became good-guys and the good drifted into the bad side, and it all became a little muddled. Clearly the author was well-versed in the Church and its willingness to care for its own, about modern psychologhy and even current views on metaphysical theories, although I am not convinced that these were applicable in the 1940's. However, the last 3rd of this very lengthy story just got lost. The author spent more time psychoanalyzing the characters, and the value of understanding and forgiveness than on resolving the conflicts in the story. I was actually relieved when the story ended, but then the narrator continued on with a monologue from the author. "Give it up ", I thought, and stopped the recording. I felt like the author or editors were either trying to justify the dismal twist of the story or convert their audience into some belief or another. I didn't not wait to see.
Personally, I'd not say this was a bad book. I came away feeling I had learned some bit more about a world otherwise foreign to me. I DID find myself agreeing with the author's overt lessons about listening, understanding, and forgiving others and oneself for perceived transgressions, and I did enjoy the voice of the narrator, if not his intrepretation of some of the dialogs. However, I also understand that for most readers, these are not necessarily good selling points. Based on the story alone, I found this book wonting. I was very disappointed, and if I were not almost obsessive about finishing books I have started, I probably would have gently set this one aside at the midpoint and moved on.
If you would like to learn more about the Church of England and how it is structured, or a bit more about charismatic healing and the connections between psychic healing, the Church and how Devine energy, focused energy, prayer and mysticism all interconnect (at least according to this author), this is a fine example. But, do not expect a strong story line. It simply is not there. Sorry.
I am a fan of the Church of England series. I did not read the novels in chronological order, but then went back and reread them chronologically, and took a more thorough involvement in the characters. Now, listening to the reader create his own version of the characters, it has given me a new view of them. Very enjoyable, very well done.
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
I am working my way back through Susan Howatch’s Church of England series. This six book series is about four different Church of England clergy told from five different main characters (one is told from the perspective of a mistress) over 30 year period.
Glamorous Powers was probably my least or second least favorite of the series on the first reading. But I discovered a lot more depth on a second reading. The first time I read this on kindle, this time I switched to audiobook.
As with all of Howatch’s writing, I think there is too much melodrama. But the melodrama makes a lot of sense to the story here. Jon Darrow is an Anglian monk. He is Abbot of one of the houses of the Fordite order (the order is fictional, but according to Wikipedia there are about 2400 Anglican Monks or Nuns around today.)
Darrow is the spiritual director from Glittering Images, the first book in the series. In the first book, Darrow was a near perfect figure, always knowing what to do, in near perfect communion with God and using his psychic abilities for spiritual direction. But several years after the first book he receives a vision that he interprets is a sign from God to leave the order and re-enter the world.
Earlier in his life, Darrow was married, had two children and after his wife died and his kids moved from home, he entered the monastic life and for 17 years followed his calling there. The first quarter of the book is about Darrow receiving the vision and then receiving spiritual direction from his superior (and long term competitor). This is a very different view of spiritual direction from the first book and I think useful to give a different perspective on what spiritual direction can be.
(Some spoilers from here on)
Darrow ends up leaving the order, messes up his reunion with his kids, meets the woman of his dreams, gets married too soon, tries to do too much to bring about this calling that he feels God has for him, avoids lots of good advice and counsel, inappropriately tries to shield those around him, while riding roughshod over them.
This is a great book to illustrate how clergy (or others) can ignore family and basic spiritual requirements of kindness and love to do what they see as their greater calling. In other words, quite often, those that feel called by God for a particular task seem to forget the more general callings of love and kindness and basic decency that we are all called to do.
Howatch also seems to have issues with fathers and marriage because again, this is a book that revolves around father figures and bad marriages. This could be cliché in the hands of a bad writer, especially since there are so many similar themes from the first book, but instead to me this feels even more insightful because of the overlapping themes from the first book.
We are often blind to reality in the heat of our passions, but God can redeem our blindness and the results of our sin for his own glory. There is no perfection in this book. Darrow, while at times being a goody, goody, shows the trap of spiritual work and the trap of trying to protect those around us instead of being vulnerable to allowing others to minister to us just as we seek to minister to those around us.
I am going to take a little time off of Howatch and catch up on some other things, but I will start the third book in the near future.
A 60-year-old Anglican monk, known for his psychic powers, loses a promotion to a despised rival, then has a vision he interprets as God directing him to leave his order. What happens next, I cannot say, because after seven hours of listening to the monk undergo a cruel, humiliating, and tortuous psychoanalysis by his rival, all for the purpose of determining whether the vision is legitimately divine, I could not take anymore.
It certainly gave me a better appreciation for doctor-patient confidentiality, because there are some human functions I don't care to hear about in minute detail (like whether a celibate old man ejaculates after having a religious vision or gets an erection when a younger woman kisses him on the cheek). I'm sorry to be so coarse, but if you buy this book, you should understand that this is what you're in for and steel yourself to endure much unpleasant discussion on the baser aspects of human nature. For me, it was a nasty experience (as in masochistic, mean-spirited, and pointless), but others apparently enjoy it. I wish I could get my credit back.
This is the second of six books. Sadly only 2, 4 and 6 are available at audible. it is a fantastic series well worth listening too, in fact I found it hard to stop once I started. I do hope that Audible get books 1, 3 and 5!
Not my normal reading, but I had met this book many years ago, and wanted to listen to it. A brilliant portrait of Jon Darrow, which dominates the whole book. I found it difficult but once started, I couldn't leave it.
"Powerful and compelling"
Glamorous Powers is the second novel in Susan Howatch?s Starbridge series. There are six novels in the series and whilst each of them can stand alone, a much better understanding of the main theme, change in the Church of England in the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of its ministers and parishioners will be gained if you can read them in order. Susan Howatch presents a multi-sided view of reality; each book in turn has their central character. We see into their souls and minds, understand their reasoning and motivations but also see them through the eyes of others.
In Glamorous Powers we meet Jon Darrow again, not the strong spiritual director that Charles Ashworth turns to in Glittering Images but a mystic, Anglo-Catholic monk. He has psychic powers and is a man of many parts, shady faith-healer, passionate husband, navel chaplain, distant father and priest. This is a fascinating psychological study of a man who constantly has to fight against arrogance and pride within the confines of a religion that preaches humility. He sees prescient visions of his future but are they pointing to the right path? Set in 1940 with the Second World War as a back-drop, this is an intriguing story which is utterly compelling.
Ably read by Dermot Crowley, he delineates the different characters well using a wide range of accents. What an art it must be to read a 500 page novel remembering all the various voices.
Insightful, fun, deep, brilliantly read.... you'll love it
The other "Starbridge" saga...
His performance of Francis is perfect...
Prepare to meet your Lord...
I struggled, listened to the first couple of hours of this book, and finally abandoned it in disgust! It is uncomfortable and infuriating listening, and not at all what I expected from Susan Howatch! I do really regret spending one of my precious book credits on this depressing book!
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