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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh, quirky pageturner
I couldn't stop reading this novel: I read it in bed; on the train; on the tube; under the desk at work. The funny thing is that I'm not really sure why. It wasn't because of the suspense, or the plot exactly - I just really needed to know what was going to happen.

A deliciously fresh novel that deals with some of the oldest, toughest issues: love, loss,...
Published on 24 Jan 2009 by Gabrielle O

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd. Short. Not a revelation.
John the Revelator is a coming of age story reminiscent of the Wasp Factory, right down to the insect obsession but without the tight plotting and satisfactory ending. The writing is good but disjointed, and feels more like a string of short stories that are loosely collected. How else to explain the church, rubbish dump and car tryst episodes? The two central...
Published on 19 Oct 2009 by R. M. Lindley


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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh, quirky pageturner, 24 Jan 2009
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This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
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I couldn't stop reading this novel: I read it in bed; on the train; on the tube; under the desk at work. The funny thing is that I'm not really sure why. It wasn't because of the suspense, or the plot exactly - I just really needed to know what was going to happen.

A deliciously fresh novel that deals with some of the oldest, toughest issues: love, loss, family, friendship and growing up. And some others along the way, like religion, getting completely wasted, ill-advised actions, small-town politics, avoidance, betrayal, and sex. You'll have to read it to have any idea of what I'm talking about.

I ordered this book without really knowing much about it. I didn't realise that it was set in Ireland (somehow the blurb makes it sound like it could be American) and I didn't really have a sense of what it would be like. Having finished it, I still don't quite know what to make of it - like the very best writing, it works its magic in a subtle way that's hard to pin down.

But it was a great read, from the Biblical quotes to the topsy-turvy home-life of John Devine, his oddly straight-talking mother Lily and John's burgeoning intense friendship (and adventures) with James Corboy. Beautifully written - even the bits about maggots and worms are curiously fascinating (our protagonist has a keen interest in creepy crawlies of this sort - sorry to give this away but this is perhaps not a book for the squeamish!)...

Fabulous but not at all precious or affected, this book delights in avoiding easy answers and just revels in the complex glories and sadnesses of growing up.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worm obsession!, 9 April 2009
By 
kehs (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
An amazingingly compelling read that covers a whole range of topics, amongst them being love, loss, religion, betrayal , humour, and sadness. Set in Ireland it made a wonderful quirky read that for me was a page turner that I couldn't put down until I'd finished it. There are some slightly queezy passages about John's weird obsession with worms and maggots, but they are strangely fascinating, too. I loved this book but have a feeling it is going to be one of those 'Marmite' reads and will have a varied response from its readers.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, moving and immensely enjoyable, 18 Jan 2009
By 
Benjamin (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
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I started to read this as I sat down to my lunch; that was a mistake, the narrator John Devine is fascinated by worms and parasites and provides in the opening pages many a lurid description of the subject of his interest. John Devine lives with his mother in the house she inherited from her parents. He is something of a loner but feels hemmed in by the Irish small town attitudes. When John is in his sixteenth year the hip and articulate Jamie moves into town and makes a friend of John on the spot, instantly confiding in him. John's life is suddenly opened up by this new friendship.

But John has his problems to cope with, a bombastic domineering local spinster, Mrs Nagle, intent on moving into and taking over John's and his mother's life; a local and possibly corrupt Guard officer; and some local heavies with criminal tendencies. He has to cope also with his own inner turmoil, troubled by dreams dominated by a large black bird, an old crow; what does it mean? But his biggest worry is his chain smoking mother's failing health, and as he tries to care for her needs he gradually learns of her past, and his origins.

The story covers John's life from his very early years to his mid teens; it is eloquently told and beautifully conjures the troubles of youth. Into the fabric of the main story Murphy ingeniously interweaves other short or very short stories. John quickly engenders one's empathy, and as the story entwines and unfolds towards its mournful yet ultimately positive conclusion one's heart will ache for our young hero.

I did not much enjoy my lunch, but I did immensely enjoy John the Revelator; its humour, its re-creation of small town Ireland, its portrayal of friendship, but above all its evocation of the turmoil of youth.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an extraordinary book!, 25 Jan 2009
By 
marcoscu "marcoscu" (Chorley,UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What an extraordinary book! The tale of a boy growing up, only child of an unmarried mother in rural island; a boy with few friends, an obsession with worms and death who has visions of crows.

Ostensibly a coming of age tale with few, if any twists - the writing is what lifts it above the norm; Peter Murphy's prose is compelling and exciting and a constant surprise.
Very hard to put down and very highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strangely Compelling, 13 Aug 2010
By 
Sir Furboy (Aberystwyth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
This book was a strange read. It is one of those books that is hard to categorise, being a slice of life in small-town Ireland seen through the yes of a young boy who grows up through the course of the book into a teen. It is not exactly a coming of age novel though. A series of events are tied together by stronger themes that tie this book into something very clever, and at points quite moving.

Beware John's fascination with worms. But that does kind of set the mood of the story. Earthy, realistic and not always right for the squeamish (but don't worry, it is not too bad on that score).

I loved the realism of this book, and the way it evokes a sense of time and place. Also the way the reader can really get into John's head, and feel what he feels whilst seeing what he sees.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A solid, compelling debut, 4 July 2010
By 
Eddie (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
This is a compelling first novel which deserved its place on last year's Costa First Novel Award shortlist.

It's a story that centres on ideas of love, family and betrayal, and it's the narrator's voice that allows Murphy to make these subjects quirky. The voice is that of an introverted adolescent, an outsider watching the world. Marooned in a tiny town, fussed over by his lonely, chain-smoking mother, John is looking for an escape route. Then Jamey Corboy arrives in town, and suddenly John is torn between his attachments to his old life and the possibilities of a new one ...

The child narrator presented with a coming of age moment is a well-trodden path. This may not be the best novel of its kind, but as a fan of debut fiction I'm always on the lookout for new voices and there is something natural, well paced and balanced in Murphy's prose. One to watch, I'd say.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Falls short of a revelation, but not by too far., 14 Mar 2010
By 
Mingo Bingo "Mingobingo" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
Quirky is an overused catch all phrase nowadays. If something doesn't fit exactly within the confines of a genre then it is inevitably called quirky. So, to label this book quirky seems somewhat glib and easy, but that would be an accurate description.

John the Revelator is in many ways your standard coming of age tale; a disenfranchised young man, an outsider, a small community, a strange family, a smattering of drink and drugs. So far, so familiar. But when you add in an obsession with insects, a hint of the supernatural and biblical undertones you start to get something a little bit out of the ordinary.

John lives in a small Irish village with his heavy smoking and bible-quoting mother. He is haunted by dreams of crows and the end of the world and withdraws from the community about him.

When James Corboy arrives in town John spies a kindred spirit and is gravitated towards the newcomer. As their normal teenage behaviour spirals into something altogether more sinister, and John's dreams become increasingly vivid, his mother's health steadily fails and John is faced with a life changing choice.

John the Revelator is hugely reminiscent of the Wasp Factory in tone and style, and it is impossible to read this book without making that unfavorable comparison, but there is still plenty to enjoy about it.

In places the writing is delicious and Peter Murphy exhibits a real understanding of the alienation and confusion of the teenage years. Throughout, the text is suffused with a dark humour and a sense of unease, and it is that which elevates this book above the norm.
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4.0 out of 5 stars More than the sum of its influences, 24 Nov 2009
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This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
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As is often the case with debut novels, Murphy's voice is sometimes a wee bit overwhelmed by that of his influences: think Nick Cave (both as novelist and as songwriter); Patrick McCabe (The Butcher Boy); maybe a smidgeon of The Wasp Factory and even Cold Comfort Farm. But he's a strong enough writer to wriggle free at least nine out of 10 times, which is a better than most manage. It's an eerie, bluesy world that he creates here, with some compellingly awful characters, and while not all of it works, I'll be looking out for his next book with interest. Good stuff.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "They'll kill you son. Give `em up while you can.", 3 Oct 2009
This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
In this story if a young boy coming of age, John Devine grows from childhood to adolescence in the Irish town of Kilcody. Born in a storm, his mother said the thunder was so loud she flinched when it struck. Treated as a typical boy, Gabriel realizes what is expected of him as his kindly mother cleans people's houses and sometimes takes in clothes to be washed or mended in order to make ends meet. A heavy smoker who likes to sit me the fire and read her Westerns, she silently becomes detached from the world around her. John in turn is confused by the mixed messages she sends, seeking solace in books including "Harper's Compendium of Bizarre Nature Facts" which established John's preoccupation with worms and parasites. In the midst of a visit from by his mother's friend Mrs. Nagle a square old bird and the only one who could help him, John meets and befriends the eccentric Jamey Corboy the market square with his black jeans and army boots, floppy hair raked back from a high forehead. A blow-in from Ballo town, Jamey is a loner who sits in the school-shelter writing in a spiral notebook, but he's from a good family and lived in a nice house. Literate and ironic, Jamey enthralls Johns with his stories, passing him copies of books by Rimbaud, and Dante.

When Jamie, hell bent on celebrating the end of his exams, drags John to a disco at the Rugby club, the hyperactive rhythms pounds from the sound system, and for the first time there is something about the music and about Jamie that is dangerous to John. If he isn't careful, the music and indeed Jamey might overwhelm his senses and swallow him up. Even as his mother, the smoke around her head like some "dissipating halo," tells John to stay away from that Jamey Corboy, Dee, Jamie's mother is just thankful that Jamie has made a friend here. A drunken night on the Chapel,, And then a black out, fragments of dream and memory began to detach themselves from the murk and float to the surface horrible as jumbled bits of bodies. Unfortunately, the evidence left on Jamey's camcorder and in a fit of anxiety John betrays his friend. Not to worry though - Jamey takes it all in his stride. When he walks away from John it feels as though something inside him died, "like I was a twin whose body had absorbed that of its brother, and now he lived in me."

Meanwhile, John's mother takes to her bed. All day long and most of the night she slept, each sickly hour that passed seemed to suck the life from her body until she shrinks beneath the sheets. And Mrs. Nagle with her boxes of chocolates and sickly perfume, endlessly intuits herself into John's life. Certainly, John's rite-of-passage into adolescence is riddled with sexual experiences and a fair amount of anxiety. He does his best to handle his betrayal of Jamey, terrified that there will be some sort of recompense for his folly. John is an imaginative boy, but also impressionable flawed and he doesn't know how to fix the situation with his mother. Throughout, Murphy's tone is lightweight as John confronts life's various challenges. The fields and the whispering woods, are beautifully rendered even as John mostly feels as though he could just vanish into the will-o-the-wisp, becoming a ghost drifting through the narrow laneways. The author does a fine job of showing John's confusion, denial and eventual acceptance of his mother's fate and of his friend Jamie who continues to enthrall him with stories. When the "old crow" eventually wings towards him across the sea, casting a "vast galleon shadow" the sunshine, the light, and the remnants of the storm, her mother's face appears and her body is restored to its fullness, Gradually, John imagines a different life Of course his life as he knows it will be forever altered, but the epiphany provides a final opportunity to say goodbye. Mike Leonard October 2008.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Nature's pretty twisted.", 14 Aug 2009
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
An "Irish gothic" novel with dark, religious overtones, JOHN THE REVELATOR is set in rural southeast Ireland, where the author himself grew up. The "revelator" of the title, "someone who reveals divine will," is a boy named John Devine, for the "beloved disciple," the only one of the apostles who escaped martyrdom, and the patron saint of writing. Born to an exceptionally religious single mother, a house cleaner, John's childhood seems relatively normal, despite his poverty, though he is pre-occupied with worms. He has nightmares in which he combines his daily life and his worries into horrific tales involving crows. By the age of fifteen, however, John is "content with his own company," and not terribly rebellious.

It is not until he meets Jamey Corboy, a sixteen-year-old, that he develops a real friendship. Jamey, far more adventurous, introduces John to heavy drinking, smoking, and a willingness to flout convention. Hanging out with bikers and toughs, Jamey has participated in a robbery, but he is also an intellectual and a fine creative writer who shares his full-length stories with John and the reader. Often scatological in tone, they reflect the spirit of Rimbaud, Jamie's favorite author, who produced his best-known work while still a teenager. Jamey plans to make a film called "Merde a Dieu."

At this point, halfway through the book, John resembles teenagers around the world, though perhaps a bit more introspective. The novel, until now, is well organized and exceptionally well written, with unique characters and a setting which allows the author to plumb the myths, folklore, and beliefs of rural Ireland. Every detail counts and relates to every other detail, and the author obviously has a big picture in mind for his themes. The turning point, however, suddenly introduces dramatic new elements which many readers will not be prepared for--changing what might have been an unusual coming-of-age novel with a provocative setting into a fast-paced horror novel, filled with violent details which many readers will find revolting.

The novel suffers significantly, in my opinion, from this shift in tone. Though the author does try to keep his themes (especially the spiritual vs. the profane) intact as his teenage characters and their families suffer through crises, the book ultimately lacks coherence. It divides into two seemingly separate genres with little correlation between them except for the superficial identities of the characters, the setting, and the author's motifs. Significantly, one of the characters does not remember anything that happens during the turning point, in which he participates, perhaps a way "out" for the author, who would have had a difficult time justifying this unexpected shift in character development, point of view, and tone. Parts of the book are unforgettable, and author Peter Murphy has aimed high, with important themes, vibrant imagery, unique characters, and local color galore. I just wish that the second half of the book had been as tight and well integrated as the first half and that the author had developed his characters more fully before he included a crisis point that seemed to come almost from out of the blue. n Mary Whipple
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John the Revelator
John the Revelator by Peter Murphy (Paperback - 3 Sep 2009)
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