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Knowledge Of Angels [Paperback]

Jill Paton Walsh
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

1 Jan 1995

It is, perhaps, the fifteenth century and the ordered tranquillity of a Mediterranean island is about to be shattered by the appearance of two outsiders: one, a castaway, plucked from the sea by fishermen, whose beliefs represent a challenge to the established order; the other, a child abandoned by her mother and suckled by wolves, who knows nothing of the precarious relationship between Church and State but whose innocence will become the subject of a dangerous experiment.

But the arrival of the Inquisition on the island creates a darker, more threatening force which will transform what has been a philosophical game of chess into a matter of life and death...


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (1 Jan 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552997803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552997805
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"'A compelling medieval fable, written from the heart and melded to a driving narrative which never once loses its tremendous pace'" (Guardian)

"'An irresistible blend of intellect and passion'" (Mail on Sunday)

"'This remarkable novel resembles an illuminated manuscript mapped with angels and mountains and signposts, an allegory for today and yesterday too. A beautiful, unsettling moral fiction about virtue and intolerance'" (Observer)

"'Remarkable...Utterly absorbing...richly detailed and finely imagined'" (Sunday Telegraph)

"'The lucidity of Jill Paton Walsh's style and the dexerity of the narrative are such that her book reads more like a good thriller than a weighty novel of ideas...An ingenious fable'" (The Times)

Book Description

A beautiful, magical novel.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tapestry of moral questions 9 Feb 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I have just returned to Knowledge of Angels after a 7 year break and found it just as compelling and beautifully written as I did the first time I read it some 10 years ago. The same dilemmas still haunt me. The book details the interwoven stories of a child reared by wolves in the mountains and a man found swimming far out at sea who claims to come from a country no one has heard of and where religious allegiance is a matter of personal conscience. They become the subject of an attempt to discover if knowledge of God is innate. Paton Walsh weaves the strands together using language that creates a mental medaevil book of hours full of fields of peasants bent double over their hoes and little wayside shrines. The book does not pretend to ape reality. Palinor, her swimming atheist, is clearly a cipher of our times and it is the clash of our morality with that of 1450 that provides the dramatic tension. It is not a perfect book but one that stimulates and stays with you. I have yet to give it to anyone who has not been as gripped as I have been (or at least owned up to it). It remains firmly in my top 10 books ever and I am still giving copies away.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave, apt and eloquent 6 Aug 2004
Format:Paperback
My memory of the engaging narrative style remains with me long after I have read the book. No word is superfluous yet the book flows from beginning to end and carries the reader with it. Its often complex ideas are expessed eloquently, leaving the reader to appreciate the implications.
It may be criticised as a forceful view of religion where one case is stated and little room is left for the reader's religious beliefs. However, the repression and cruelties against which it fights are undertaken in the name of absolute conformity to the doctrines of the Church, so that it appears to me that the prevailing argument is not against religion but rather against the use of beliefs to justify inhumane acts.
Two of the most awesome accomplishments are the deployment of Josefa (wait for it...!) and the ending, which left me breathless and unwilling to destroy the atmosphere (even by speaking!) for some time. I am thrilled.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Most intersesting and worth dipping into. 29 May 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I found this book slightly boring at first if I am honest. However, I had to study it and after a short while, I found myself engrossed. I have to say that it is compelling once the introduction and the primary events have passed.
This book really focuses on the narrow minds of those who claim to have the greatest minds, those who are at the top of the class hierachy. Can one possibly be an atheist in true faith? This is the question Severo must solve when a strange man enters his idyllic island. Palinor (a Prince in his own country) claims that he does not believe in God, causing despair in the religious boundries of the island. At the same time, a strange wolf girl is found who has no knowledge of the most basic human traits. Severo uses both characters in a dangerous experiment to find out whether the knowledge of God is with us from infancy or whether it is learnt during childhood.
You find yourself wondering at times whether or not your own faith and beliefs should be questioned whilst reading this enchanted little book. I think Walsh's style is excellent throughout this intruiging journey, though I must warn you of the rather graphic chapter 22, which seems out of place (it's amusing to students like moi, but older readers may be offended! ). Definitely worth reading!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By sadie
Format:Paperback
I first read this book in 1998, and have been reading it ever since, but it's not what you might think; my adoration has waned slightly.
I admit, at first I was blown away. This was the book in my head, that I had hoped to write one day - an exploration of human nature within both geological confines and the confines of a religion full of uncompromising absolutes. The somewhat romantic idea of a newly-discovered child raised by wolves combined with a 'fate' of some sort washing an atheist on to the Catholic island set the fuse for large explosions later, the fate of one dependent on the other, but also dependent on the actions of some very flawed human beings. I was enthralled. I read it again and again until I knew it absolutely inside out. I could see the way it was crafted, exactly why characters said and did what they did.
That was probably where my problems began. I realised that, although quite brilliant, Knowledge of Angels did nothing more than required to tie all the ends of the plot. I began to recognise the sources used, for example for the philosophical discussions between the atheist Palinor and deeply religious Beneditx, as of fairly limited origin - Thomas Aquinas features heavily. Actions and reactions seemed inevitable once the outcome of the plot was known - right down to the portrayal of the athiest as 'ultra human' with human apetites, concetrating on chapter 22 but also evident on previous occasions, like when the fishermen's wives dress him after his ordeal in the sea and make 'unfavourable comparisons' with their spouses' anatomy. The reader is being led, entirely, and there is little room for interpretation. This, after what must be my hundreth reading of the book, has made it seem contrived, manufactured perhaps, lacking the depth I once saw.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It'll add a new dimension to your life!
A wonderful read. Could only have been written by a very intelligent, convent educated, person. I'll read more of her books.
Published 1 month ago by smartjoeylad
5.0 out of 5 stars good product
the product was received very promptly and I enjoyed the story. I would use this seller again. thanu you very much
Published 2 months ago by Simon Richardson
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
A thoroughly enjoyable read. It got my attention from page one and didn't lose it's momentum throughout the book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by KatieB
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad comment on the human race and a sad ending but amazing theological...
A very deep book, an analysis of religious belief and theology together with lovely little word portraits. Well worth reading if you like to think.
Published 5 months ago by picky one
5.0 out of 5 stars I keep buying copies of this for friends
I read this years ago after hearing it being read on the radio. Every now and then I encounter someone who hasn't read it and is need of a bit of lift so I get Amazon to deliver it... Read more
Published 8 months ago by lousouthend
3.0 out of 5 stars knowledge of angels
a good book but the book had been written on almost every page.It was therefore not in good/excellent condition other that the cover had not been tampered with
Published 12 months ago by Nik
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book
Well written and thought provoking. The story of how the book was published is nearly as good a tale as the book.
Published 14 months ago by Steve andrews
4.0 out of 5 stars And the gates of hell ......
Well written, cleverly crafted, enthralling reading, sadly pessimistic. I take Knowledge of Angels to be a fable. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Graham Ryan
3.0 out of 5 stars A simple story
Written rather like a mediaeval allegory - a fable which teaches morality.
Holds one's interest but is very simplistic in its approach.
An easy read for a teenager.
Published 15 months ago by Rosemary Logan
5.0 out of 5 stars The road to Hell ...
This is an excellent story and very well told. The dramatic tension of the two main strands (a ship wrecked philosopher and a lost wolf-girl) is created believably and well... Read more
Published 17 months ago by R. Wilson
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