Most helpful critical review
This needs to be viewed as a product of the time, and a product of its genre.
on 5 January 2015
I'll be honest, I was was quite disappointed with this book, because I was expecting a fairly nuanced take on satanism, and while Wheatley does shed some light on some really interesting occult concepts (notable numerology), most of this novel's plot is heavily tied up with the politics of the time (casual racism and sexism abound).
Those issues in themselves I can overlook (not an easy feat, but it can be done), what's more of an issue is the generally ridiculous characterisation (which ties in with the casual racism and sexism) and ludicrously quick 3rd act resolution. There's a good deal of genuinely exciting build up to the satanist rituals, which, to a reader in the 1930s, I am sure would have been terrifying (something my dad has made clear to me). But in an age where casual sex is less taboo, it's hard to take the idea of an evil orgy on a heath seriousy. I mean, I just assumed it was a pack of doggers.
All joking aside, if you've read anything about gnosticism, or other religions that offer alternative viewpoints to mainstream christianity, the idea of a lot of this stuff actually starts to seem quite ridiculous, quite quickly.
Much of this could be forgiven, I think, but to me, it just wasn't a greatly satisfying story. I think this is something that needs to be considered of the time and genre. It's something that just hasn't aged very well.
Please, if you disagree with me, let me know. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.