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Absolute Truths
Absolute Truths
by Susan Howatch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely satisfying, 7 Dec. 2001
This review is from: Absolute Truths (Paperback)
Although this is the last book in the Starbridge series it is actually set in time before its immediate prequel, Mystical Paths. Howatch obviously had good reasons for doing this; no other book could have rounded up the series so perfectly, and certainly it was a delight to return to Chares Ashworh as narrator, who began the whole series. This time Charles is at the evening of his life. He has been the Bishop of Salisbury for some years.. Some of those nearest and dearest to him have passed away and he has to come to terms not only with the sense of loss, doubt and lack of direction, but also with his wayward Dean, Neville Ayesgarth, who still insists on going off on a tangent in affairs of the Cathedral. As in Scandalous Risks, scandal seems only around the corner and Charles has to develop very strong spiritual muscles in order to bring matters to an outcome worthy of a Christian.
I must not forget to mention that in this novel Starbridge Cathedral itself - in the other books merely a background stat - becomes a major character, and a star player during the Grande Finale The climax of this book is not only deeply moving, it is also absolutely perfect. As is the entire series.


Mystical Paths
Mystical Paths
by Susan Howatch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the story continues..., 6 Dec. 2001
This review is from: Mystical Paths (Paperback)
The second trilogy in the Starbridge books takes place in the 1960's. In this book Jon Darrow's son Nick is now a young man shortly before his ordination as a priest. Nick is in no way a model ordinand. Like his father he has psychic powers, and cannot resist the urge to show them off as parlour tricks to impress the girls. He has quite a collection of female admirers and has it all figured out - how to separate the nice girls from the bad ones, and, of course, when to go to Confession (not compulsory in the Church of England) only to start all over again. The central story in this book is Nick's obsession with finding out the truth about a friend who has died under mysterious circumstances. He also has deep-seated issues with his father Jon - now living as a wise but fallible recluse - and problems keeping his psychic powers under control. Nick tends to blunder from one mess into the other - but remains a loveable and sincere young man who needs to learn the lesson: I CAN BE WRONG.
In spite of Nick's charms I wasn't entirely captivated by this book. I never really developed an interest in Christian and couldn't quite follow Nick's fascinationwith him. Also I found the psychic-occult element a little tedious this time around; it had been dealt with adequately in Glamorous Powers, I felt. Nevertheless it's an important part of the series and it was wonderful getting to know Nick, and witnessing the love between him and Jon.


Scandalous Risks
Scandalous Risks
by Susan Howatch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Howatch does it again...., 6 Dec. 2001
This review is from: Scandalous Risks (Paperback)
In the fourth of the Starbridge books Howatch does it again - she proves her amazing versatility as a writer of fiction by giving us a completely new character in a completely new voice and a completely new style. It never ceases to amaze me how Howatch, in each case, actually becomes the narrator! Whereas the elderly churchman Jon Darrow of Glamorous Powers (for instance) speaks in a rather conservative, upper class voice, Venetia is racy, witty, full of verve and charm, and it is easy to understand why poor Neville is completely besotted with her.
In this book we have the only female narrator in the entire series, and the only non-clergyman. Venetia is a rebellious society woman who discovers a completely new dimension to herself when she falls in love with her dear "Mr Dean" - Neville Ayesgarth, the married Dean of Starbridge Cathedral. He too is carried away and it is quite alarming how both of they live in a cloud of self-deception as to the nature of their relationship... and more than once while reading this book the Clinton-Lewinsky affair came to my mind - especially when the question arises as to whether or not they have technically committed adultery.
This story takes place in the 60's, and is the first in the second trilogy; the first trilogy was set in the 30's and 40's so now the three major protagonists of those books are a greta deal older. Mr Dean could be Venetia's father, and in fact his daughter is her best friend, which only adds to the delusion (mostly HIS) that the relationship is mainly spiritual in nature.
I feel that of all the Starbridge books, this one works as well as a stand-alone as part of a series, and for anyone who would like a taste of post-saga Howatch but is not quite decided whether or not to plunge into an entire six-book series, I would recommend this one. Another great book for our online discussion group!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 19, 2010 9:27 AM BST


Ultimate Prizes
Ultimate Prizes
by Susan Howatch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars read it third!, 5 Dec. 2001
This review is from: Ultimate Prizes (Paperback)
In the third of the Starbridge series we get a closer look at Neville Ayesgarth, who was at loggerheads with Jon Darrow in the second book. Here it is Ayesgarth's turn to be stripped apart and laid bare by Howatch's expert scalpel! I have to admit that though I didn't dislike this book, I didn't like it as much as others in the series. It began promisingly enough, with Neville falling under the spell of the young flibbertigibbet Dido. Dido - who later becomes famous in the series as a loose cannon - resists his advances until... well, that would be giving things away. I felt though that the second part of the book gets bogged down in the dissection of Neville's past. I found it not so interesting to read about his background as he tells it to his spiritual director; as such the characters who are so important to Neville - his mother, his father, Uncle Willoughby - never came alive for me and his recounting of them felt rather slow. However, it is still a great book and indispensable to the series. Read it - but read it third; after Glittering Images and Glamorous Powers!...


Glamorous Powers
Glamorous Powers
by Susan Howatch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of insight, 4 Dec. 2001
This review is from: Glamorous Powers (Paperback)
The second in the series of Starbridge books - Glamorous Powers - is the one I liked the best. IN this book we get to know Jon Darrow, who figured in the first volume Glittering Images as Charles Ashworth's spiritual director, more intimately. Whereas in Glamorous powers, seen through Charles Ashworth's eyes, he was the perfect super priest who knew everything, here we actually get under Jon's skin and see him as he sees himself: as a flawed, confused man with many problems, in particular concerning his relationship with women. Jon had spent several years in a monastery as a monk, but now, in his sixties, he receives a calling from God to leave the monastery and fulfil a mission in the world - but he doesn't know what. Nor is he certain if that mission includes marriage.
For anyone with an interest in Gnosticism and mysticism, this is a particularly interesting book - but such an interest is definitely not a pre-condition for reading and enjoying it! I'm not the only Howatch reader to have this as their favourite in the series. I've opened an online discussion and reading group based on the Howatch novels; if you are interested in joining please mail me!


Glittering Images
Glittering Images
by Susan Howatch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sparkles with her wit and expertise, 4 Dec. 2001
This review is from: Glittering Images (Paperback)
After writing 5 highly successful family sagas Susan Howatch had a spiritual experience which converted her to Christianity. She then embarked on the series of six novels which were later to be known as the Starbridge books; she had lived herself for some time in the Cathedral Close at Salisbury, and her fictional town Starbridge is actually Salisbury. Just as her family sagas were written in a multi-person first-person narrator format, so was the Starbridge series, but this time each narrator gets a whole book instead of only a section of one!
Glittering Images is the first book in the series. I had already read al five of the family sagas before I had the courage to start on Starbridge; I saw had the courage because I was sure that a whole series of books set in the Church of England could not help but be stuffy and priggish. But this of course is Susan Howatch, a master storyteller. And these books are considered by many to be an enormous step forward.
I found the depth of character found in all the Starbridge even more impressive than in the sagas. She shows not only an extraordinarily deep understanding of the human condition, she also shows great compassion and warmth for all her characters so that even if they have weaknesses and make mistakes, we can nevertheless forgive and love them.
In the first trilogy of books. Set in the 1930's and 1940's, each of the three narrators is stripped down and turned inside out, so that the reader knows all there is to know about them.
In this first book we first meet Charles Ashworth, who will be a major player in the series. Charles has conservative leanings and a Middle Way churchmanship. As ever, Howatch succeeds in giving us an in-depth portrait of a very likeable and sincere man, and sets him in the middle of a story that simply pulls you through, unravelling secret after secret. A wonderful book, which made me immediately want to start on the next one in the series... Glamorous Powers! I've opened an online discussion and reading group based on the Howatch novels; if you are interested in joining please mail me!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 25, 2012 10:49 AM GMT


Penmarric
Penmarric
by Susan Howatch
Edition: Paperback

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars worth many re-reads, 3 Dec. 2001
This review is from: Penmarric (Paperback)
Penmarric was the third Howatch novel I read, and the one that got me hooked on her. The first was "Sins of the Fathers", which I liked very much and so, a few years later, I read its prequel, the Rich are Different, which I also enjoyed. But it was only after coming across Penmarric - completely by accident - that I woke up and took notice. From the first page I was engrossed in the characters. The story begins with Mark, a rather dour man, who falls in love with Janna, a woman several years his senior. These are the two central figures of the novel, which later moves on to the next generation. Howatch proves herself to be a master storyteller with the ability to get under the skin of her characters in such a way that the reader can identify with them completely - a very rare talent. Her multi-character first-person structure enables us to see the unfolding story through the eyes of five characters in turn, and it is quite amazing how a character whom one has disliked when he or she was seen through the eyes of another character suddenly takes on completely new dimensions when he/she comes on central stage as narrator. I know of no writer who does this as well as Howatch.
The story is set in Cornwall and begins in 1890 and goes on to span the intervening years till WWII. It is a rich and multifaceted novel, well worth reading many times to discover all its layers, and a great novel for a group discussion..


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