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Knowledge Of Angels Paperback – 1 Jan 1995

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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: 12.7 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 May 2000
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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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Feb. 2004
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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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "dazzlermary" on 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Graham Ryan on 4 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well written, cleverly crafted, enthralling reading, sadly pessimistic. I take Knowledge of Angels to be a fable. Palinor, an heroic, enlightened, rational humanist is inventively washed ashore on an island dominated by the medieval thinking and practices of the Catholic Church where he is charged with heresy and subject to the cruel, inhuman punishment of the Inquisition. He refuses the 'get outs' offered by a humane Cardinal, Beneditx, and is finally burnt at the stake.

Beneditx, had engaged one of the Church's brightest theologians, Severo, steeped in Anselmian philosophy, to convince Palinor that all humans can come to the knowledge of God by human reason. Despite intense efforts Severo fails to persuade Palinor and is with a kind of bitter irony himself finally subverted by the atheist's iron logic and loses his faith. At the same time, in order to save Palinor from the Inquisition cardinal Beneditx contrives a scheme which he hopes will demonstrate quite the opposite : that knowledge of God is not innate, but is a learned response.

The context within which this intellectual struggle takes place is quite macabre: an infant girl, Amara, is abandoned in the snowy mountains and mysteriously nurtured by wolves. When eventually rescued as a child she has developed all the savage behaviour of a wild beast. She is taken to a monastery to be looked after by an order of nuns where she is put into the care of Josefa, a young novice recently driven into the monastery by her father because, he tells her, she is too ugly ever to marry. The touching relationship that develops between the snow-child and young novice is one of the few glimmers of hope in the novel. Slowly and painfully Amara assumes human ways and eventually learns to speak.
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