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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.
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...
Published on 29 May 2000

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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars very ambitious, doesn't quite make it
I just finished this book, and I have to say I disagree with those reviewers giving it 2 stars. If I could I'd do 3.5, because it's much better than average, but not nearly as good as it could be. I think the author has bitten off a little more than she can chew, or perhaps the length of the book isn't long enough to do what she intends. It seems she's trying something...
Published on 26 Sep 2002 by M. K. Curtiss


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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
This review is from: Knowledge Of Angels (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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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
This review is from: Knowledge Of Angels (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
This review is from: Knowledge Of Angels (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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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All things considered, still one of the best books I've read, 16 Jun 2003
This review is from: Knowledge Of Angels (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. I found it held no surprises once it had been deconstructed.
But, inevitability aside, there are many things I still love about this book. Most of all I love the way the imagery of the church is used, well, against a religion of absolutes. The sight of Christ on the cross in the chapel terrifies the cleaned-up wolf-child, inviting us to think hard about what such a large proportion of the world are holding in reverence. I am a big fan of the colours and details of Palinor's execution - it is like they are burning Christ themselves. And the ultimate message? Absolutes cannot be applied to people, least of all by other people.
It still holds a great significance for me, as it has shaped not only the way I think about writing, but the way I think about the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I keep buying copies of this for friends, 15 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Knowledge Of Angels (Paperback)
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 to them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And the gates of hell ......, 4 April 2013
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This review is from: Knowledge Of Angels (Paperback)
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. But she has a significant and baleful role in the story.

The Cardinal, Beneditx, attempts to use the wolf-child to thwart the Inquisitor's determination to prove the atheist a heretic. He instructs the nuns never to speak of God to the child, hoping to demonstrate that the Inquisitor's charge against Palinor: that all human beings have an innate knowledge of God, which he is willfully resisting (and is therefore a heretic) is false. The plan goes wrong; Amara, led by Josefa, finally talks of a protective spirit supporting her in the mountains. Beneditx is lost; he is left humiliated and now vulnerable, experiencing his own `dark night of the soul'. For him there is no knowledge like that of the angels.

I have come to the novel late, and almost twenty years since it was written, but it still has power to haunt and to provoke. Is the idea of God as fascinans et tremendum now alien, or it is the world that is alienated? Is the struggle of light over darkness being won, and by whom? Are faith and reason to be reconciled? How is the Church now responding to its prophetic challenge?

Several reviewers have commented on the brief sexual encounter in the novel, even suggesting that readers of my own generation might be scandalised. It is indeed shocking as intended: by both its explicitness and its unexpectedness. Perhaps another sign of enlightenment, that caring sexual relationships can and should be guilt-free and joyful, another view of humanity that the Church still struggles with.

When a novel has a galloping narrative, disturbs and threatens, yet cares about its characters, raises eternal questions and leaves the reader reaching for the author's other books, it has to be good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Knowledge of Angels, 12 Jun 2008
By 
A. Hope "bookcrossing ali" (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Knowledge Of Angels (Paperback)
I thought this novel was brilliant. A beautifully written book which concerns some fascinating theological questions. I also enjoyed the historical aspect of the book, the way in which people lived and worked and survived during the middle ages, the things they believed, and were unable to understand for example a cleric who has made a study of angels -and who rationalises his belief by reasoning how else could javelins fly through the air once they have been let go of. The narrative spilts between the story of a man rescued by fisherman - whose beliefs are strange and unorthodox to the people of the island and who maintains he is an atheist, and a wild wolf child who had been raised by wolves before being found in the icy mountains. I loved the story of the wolf child, and the abbey she is taken to.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this, 3 Jun 2003
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This review is from: Knowledge Of Angels (Paperback)
As a student of philosophy and an avid book reader, I absolutely loved this book. A smooth read with interesting and intertwined plots all revolving around the subject of the proof of god existence. I found this novel incredibly refreshing; Walsh has treated the subject with subtlety and clarity. A read, which is highly enjoyable and for all those who have an interest in religion or philosophy, this is something to get your juice buds racing. And for all those who know nothing of the subject this book, this novel is not at all confusing, quite the opposite! Trust me you will enjoy it.
Highly recommend it
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine intellect prompts you to examine your own belief system, 2 Dec 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Knowledge Of Angels (Paperback)
I am 16 and one of the first A-level students to study this novel for English Literature (it only appeared on the syllabus this year - 1999). I approached the book with a feeling of trepidation - after all, my ideal read isn't analysing the finer points of medieval religious theology - but what I found was both a stimulationg and challenging read. I found it prompted me to question my own athiest belief, and contradictory to Beneditx - who loses his faith through persuasion - I found myself seriously considering the role of a god in our society. The finely executed persuasive diologue, and the rich descriptive tapestry Walsh weaves, all prompted me to challenge my previous judgement. At the beginning of the novel, I found myself caring about the more accessable and attractive character of Amara, but after studying the finer points of the arguments between Beneditx and Palinor, I began to appreciate this much more. In all, a superbly challenging book which, if as easily persuasive as me, will order you to re-examine your belief system, and carefully consider the arguments Walsh proposes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It'll add a new dimension to your life!, 1 Jun 2014
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A wonderful read. Could only have been written by a very intelligent, convent educated, person. I'll read more of her books.
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Knowledge Of Angels
Knowledge Of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh (Paperback - 1 Jan 1995)
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