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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An original and intriguing novel, 16 Sept. 2010
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Written in 1824 but set about a century earlier in early seventeenth Scotland, 'The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner' actually tells the same tale twice: once by an unnamed editor and once by the (equally anonymous) sinner himself. In a nutshell the story tells of how the Laird of Dalcastle had two sons but, though both born of the same mother, for some reason or other refused to acknowledge the second. The firstborn, George, grows up to be an easy, outgoing young man while the second, Robert (the sinner of the title), is raised by the Reverend Wringhim, a stern and radical divine, and soon becomes a haughty and arrogant youth. Convinced that he is one of 'the elect' (according to the calvinist notion of predestination), he begins to pester his brother. And then, seemingly by coincidence, Robert meets a very intriguing man that begins to converse with him on religious matters, and before long Robert finds himself utterly entranced by this mysterious 'Gil-martin'.

I acknowledge this all may sound rather dull and nothing but religious claptrap, but in fact the book offers the very opposite: it's written in a very easy and fluent style (here and there in Scottisch dialect which I confess was at times difficult for a non-native speaker such as myself), and the plot moves along rapidly. Also, Hogg uses the technique of telling the same tale twice (but from different points of view) to great effect: by the time I finished the editor's version I was extremely eager to discover the sinner's version.

Now having been raised a Roman Catholic myself but since years an atheist I first of all am not extremely interested in religious doctrines and discussions, and secondly do not know a lot about Calvinism, Presbyterianism and so on and so forth (something I hope to remedy soon by reading Diarmaid MacCulloch's A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years) but even to one such as me it was fascinating to read where - if taken to extremes - the notion of predestination may lead. Indeed, if you consider yourself one of the elect and 'saved' whatever happens or whatever you do, one might truly become a 'justified sinner' intent on ridding the earth of those who are not elect. Effectively, if they are doomed regardless, why should it matter if they die now, or next year, or in 20 years?

This is what Gil-martin argues and one might wonder (many have) if he is meant to be a personification of the devil. Hogg is very subtle on this point: although there are numerous pointers throughout the book, I for one found it impossible to conclude with absolute certainty that Gil-martin is in fact the devil. He may as well be a figment of Robert's imagination, and the numerous conversations he has with Gil-martin nothing but the ramblings of a deranged mind.

Whatever the case, it's all very well done and - always a good sign to my mind - as relevant today as it was in 1824. Very warmly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're a fan of Gothic Literature..., 15 Sept. 2014
This review is from: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
An informative and thoroughly annotated edition of a fascinating literary classic. Hoggs' story is as interesting as his novel- which is surprisingly accessible just as 'a read'. A slice of classic gothic storytelling with dual narratives, a compelling demonic 'villain' and an array of intriguing supporting characters. Also a great insight into a Scottish society at the time.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disconcerting and amusing, 14 Jan. 2013
This review is from: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
What a surprising story. Although written in the mid 1800s it is so captivating to a modern audience that the date is totally irrelevant. It's writing style for example is easy to follow and the whole plot precursor of many novels to follow: mystery, murder, the supernatural, fantasy, madness - a faithful description of the era and the country.
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