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29
4.3 out of 5 stars
Glamorous Powers
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 13 February 2006
Susan Howatch's stories are very weird. Her characters have tempestuous spiritual lives. I mentioned that I had read her novels to a man who was an assistant to former Archbishop Runcie. Runcie supposedly said they were good stories, but nonsense.
Having known Runcie a tiny bit, I found that quite disappointing. Surely he should know if some of his priests have psychic powers?
Howatch's world of demons, exorcisms, hypnosis, visions and healings is thrilling. She makes religious experience intensely dramatic. She expresses something of the inner turmoil and confusion we all feel but it is not practical or possible often to communicate to others.
The fact that a marriage or a family life can have one narrative, but look under the surface and there are many different narratives, is certainly true. That we have to revise our interpretation of events in our lives when we acquire self-knowledge is also absolutely spot on. Are the bits about resurrecting cats from the dead and premonitions of the future, literary devices that just bring out those facts with more clarity? I'm not sure. In our own minds we can identify strange inklings, but of course we tend to forget the inklings which turned to be absurd. Howatch is actually good at showing that we can fulfil our own premonitions by literally creating them through our own efforts.
I'm glad the Archbishop of Canterbury isn't infallible. I'm glad too that Susan Howatch writes such complex and stimulating fiction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2012
I read this years ago and recently re-bought for my kindle. I am glad to say it has lost none of its magic.

The story starts with Jon Darrow a man who became a monk in an Anglican order 17 years ago becoming convinced that he is being called by God to re-join the world in a as yet unspecified way. The book combines a love story,(yes incl. sex but not graphic) a journey of spiritual discovery and psycho-analysis as Jon faces up to the failures of his past and his relationships with his parents and children. The "Glamorous Powers" of the title are Jon's psychic powers. I particuarly like the way this aspect of the story is handled -although his abilities are genuine they are not exaggerated and do not provide magic answers to problems. As Ingram his spiritual advisor points out -for every genuine psychic insight Jon has he makes two wild inaccurate guesses. Despite the unlikely premise the story is a believable one and the main character despite his obvious character flaws is a symapathetic one. This story will appeal particularly to anyone interested in the mystical aspects of religion but it is definitely a story not a sermon.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 1999
Like GLITTERING IMAGES, the first of the Starbridge novels, GLAMOROUS POWERS is compulsive reading for anyone with an interest in the Church of England during the mid-twentieth century. It illustrates well how supernatural gifts can be misused but also, how by the grace of God, situations can be redeemed and transformed. I liked the idea of a monk who, at sixty, didn't consider himself to be a young man but, released from his vows, nevertheless managed to find love and happiness. Susan Howatch is a much better author than I am, and her subject matter had obvoiusly been well researched. The only criticsm that might be ventured is the lack of reference to the constraints imposed by wartime conditions. More in the way of refrence to those circumstances would make a book set in 1940 rather more authentic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2013
I very much enjoy reading Susan Howatch's books. Her profound sense of place and the deep analysis of emotional and spiritual states of her main character are impressive. As we get to know the main character, his spiritual and emotional trials and tribulations hold our attention and we all can identify with his struggle to bridge the discrepancies between 'how he should feel and behave as a clergy' and 'how he actually feels and behaves'. As a psychological and spiritual study this book doesn't disappoint. It disappoints slightly by being fairly similar to the first book in the series and I found at times that I wished it would move a bit faster.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 4 December 2001
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!
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on 24 February 2013
I am currently reading the Starbridge books in sequence. I'm taking my time and savouring every moment because I absolutely love these books.

This one is set in wartime England. Jon Darrow, who has recently had his 60th birthday and has been a monk for many years, has a vision which he interprets as a call to leave the order and re-enter the world. But what is he to do? He is a brilliant teacher, but a difficult relationship with his father, who was a teacher, means that he pushes teaching away. His psychic side is a double edged sword - able to offer healing when needed, he doesn't know when he is using his power for tangible good or to satisfy his need to be a miracle worker.

Leaving aside some personal misgiving that a man of 60, particularly a man of the Church, could be so chaotic in his personal life, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. One subtext is about the rights and wrongs of psychic healing power, which I found fascinating. Another subtext is the relationship between fathers and sons - a theme which is contiuned from Glittering Images. The dialogue betweeen characters is captivating and at times, gleefully mischievous.

Susan Howatch tackles serious subjects with intelligence and a lightness of touch that is a delight to read. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 May 2013
Excellent book on very difficult issues, eg personal insight and recognition of errors, damage of guilt etc. Most interesting too on the differing views of the Church of England, its problems of dogma and differing schools of thought. A very shrewd look at the personal and psychological problems facing priests . A very thoughtful novel looking at an area of religion, ie psychic powers, that must by its very nature create much conflict and debate.
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on 20 April 2014
I loved the first of the Starbridge novels which seemed a bit more grounded and had a mystery at its heart. This novel is much more focused on a spiritual and emotional journey of Father Darrow, a hero in book one. I did enjoy this book but did not find it gripping as the plot moves pretty slowly and there is a intellectual focus on mysticism which does sometimes seem a bit arcane
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on 12 April 2014
Found myself endlessly fretting and worrying about poor John Darrow as I read this book first many years ago. I have re-read many times since then and its like visiting an old friend. Captivating and absorbing; everything I look for in a novel.

I have found rather a lot of typos in the Kindle versions of Howatch's books. have had to send 2 of them back.
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on 2 May 2014
Whilst having a different theological outlook to the characters and likely the author, this is a fascinating study of characters.
If you have a working knowledge of the c of e it'll be an easier read but in truth this is quality writing and good for all.
Fun, yet made me reflect on many of my own family, friends and relationships.
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