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Havoc, in Its Third Year Paperback – 6 Jun 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; New Ed edition (6 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747260346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747260349
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12.8 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 485,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "gavinrob2001" on 4 Mar 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ronan Bennett skillfully transports readers back to the political and religious turbulence of England in the 1630s. John Brigge is coroner and one of twelve governors of a northern town under the stewardship of his long-term friend Nathaniel Challoner, the Master. However, dangers lurk for the comparatively tolerant and principled coroner, as he spends more time on his farm with his heavily pregnant wife and becomes isolated from the intrigues in the town. Increasingly, the Master takes counsel from hard-liner advisers that brook no activity that deviates from their divinely inspired truth. Moreover, the precariousness of Brigge's position is exacerbated by his failure to hastily condemn an Irish Catholic woman accused of murdering her new-born babe and his challenging of the powerful hard-line Constable for failing to call a witness in the case. Most dangerously of all, although Brigge performs prescribed Protestant activities, the Catholic sympathies of he and his wife come under scrutiny as the masses increasingly express anti-papist sentiments.
Clearly, 'Havoc' can be read as an allegory for our own troubled times. Many readers will empathise strongly with the plight and dilemmas facing the coroner, and wonder what we would do in his shoes. 'Havoc' raises many issues that have interesting parallels today, although regrettably doesn't explore any of them in any great depth.
'Havoc' is particularly well-written with some interesting period language, particularly in the earlier sections of the novel. Bennett's narrative is lively and compelling: whilst fearing the worst, readers hope that Brigge will successively negotiate the dangers. Regrettably, the story flags somewhat in the final straight, settling for a fairly predictable ending with strong religious overtones.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Terence H. Edwards on 7 May 2006
Format: Paperback
'Havoc' is Ronan Bennett's term for the effects of theocracy, and specifically the puritan rule that spread across large parts of England before and during the English Revolutions of the 17th century.

Set in an unnamed Northern town in a bleak winter in the early 1630s, the book describes the aftermath of the takeover of power by a coalition of upright burghers from the brutal, semi-feudal control of Lord Savile. The central character - Brigge - is a well-off and kindly farmer, who becomes coroner and a governor of the town, but becomes increasingly disillusioned as his close friend Challoner, the master of the town, falls under the sway of a Taliban-like puritan faction. Calls to build 'a shining city on a hill' herald a legalistic attitude to the law (and specifically, Biblical Mosaic law) and bring in a grim regime where harsh punishments - brandings for fornication, death for adultery, 'Sodomy' or Papism, removal of support for the poor, expulsion of beggars - rule, stoked by a continual fear of the inevitable anti-puritan backlash. In a town where impossible standards are imposed by vindictive law, where mercy is a forgotten quality, and where the original governors are now misusing this legal brutality in machiavellian manoeuvring against each other, no person can feel safe - least of all, the secretly Catholic governor, Brigge.

In Brigge, we have a Graeme Greene style character - a man whose goodness stems from his humanity, and is almost inseparable from his human flaws - contrasted with the hard-hearted self-righteous puritans whose paranoia echoes the characters of the Crucible. And like Miller's great play, this book is satirical. 'A shining city on a hill' was, after all, a favourite phrase of one recent American President, whose successors seem increasingly to sound like Bennett's 17th century puritans.

'Havoc' is a word of warning to all today, in a World where religious fundamentalism is on the rise again.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 6 Sep 2004
Format: Hardcover
Set in northern England in the early 1630s, this novel artfully captures the political, social, and religious turmoil during the reign of King Charles I. A distant and autocratic king, Charles fails to take into account the enormous religious changes sweeping both Europe and England and undermining his own power. Puritanical grassroots movements have now sprung up, with many local leaders, both religious and civil, calling for reform and purification. John Brigge, a coroner living in the remote countryside, is one of twelve governors aiding Nathaniel Challoner, the Master, in his "Revolution of the Saints" and his project to "build a city on the hill."
Though he attends the prescribed protestant church, Brigg is in reality a "papistical malignant," a man who walks the difficult line between the Puritanism of the Master, a lifelong friend, and his belief that "men must have mercy, for without mercy we are savages." When Brigge is suddenly called to conduct an inquest on an infant found dead in a local pub, he discovers that Katherine Shay, a Catholic deemed "prideful, brazen, and uncontrite," has been arrested for the murder.
With numerous subplots and much intrigue, the story of Katherine Shay's arrest and John Brigge's search for justice on her behalf evolves. The period comes to life on every level of society as the author shows in realistic detail the kinds of gruesome punishments meted out for "sins," the harshness of life for the homeless poor, the dependence of farmers on luck and weather, the fragility of life, the excesses of religious extremism, and the abiding power of love.
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