- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 2007 KB
- Print Length: 120 pages
- Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (20 Dec. 2012)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00A7YYYU6
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #249,418 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Theo: A Novella Kindle Edition
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I found this short read somewhat sinister but I found I had to keep reading to find out what happened. There is a lot which is unexplained and left to the reader's imagination which intensifies the strange atmosphere. I am not keen on anything written in the present tense which is why I have not given it five stars but apart from that I thought the novella well written. It has interesting themes of madness, death and redemption and it left me wondering what would happen to John Elliot and his wife Christine after the end of the story.
This novella comes with the first three chapters of the author's latest book - Light Shining in the Forest - which features some of the characters from Theo: A Novella. I think I shall be reading that at some point as I enjoyed this novella.
"The mind can play tricks on you. Sometimes people see things just because they want to see them."
Trailers have always been popular in promoting new films about to be released. The new trend in novels is to release a prequel or a parallel story to lead into the main novel. Writers seem to favour the ebook to promote their latest novel. Theo is a prequel to Light Shining in the Forest, a macabre tale of murder, child abduction and the supernatural.
John Elliott is the main character, a disillusioned priest, questioning his beliefs and deciding that he was a failure. He is the vicar of St. Joseph's church although he could quite so easily have been an accountant or a solicitor. His world was turned upside down when his father, a Minister of the Church of Scotland died suddenly at the age of 50. John was devastated and believed that by studying theology at Durham University would be the best path to follow. Initially, he was full of optimism hoping to encourage his parish to attend the church instead of filling just the first three rows of the church with its ageing members and the rest of the church empty.
News that someone has ripped off a long section of lead from the roof causing water to leak through the roof adds to the depression at the opening for someone who is already regretting his "vocation". John's wife Christine was a primary teacher and it was through contact at the school that Theo was introduced, an unusual child with serious wounds and marks to indicate that he was physically abused.
The Reverend Alfred Stone was the previous vicar who suffered a mental breakdown and was being treated at St. Mark's. He asked to see John twice and questioned John's beliefs in God and the church. "Do you believe in the resurrection? Do you believe Jesus really died?" John was shocked by these questions, more so when he was asked if he had experienced any strange dreams. He is told that when he next visits Alfred he will learn about an incident that happened a few years ago at St Joseph's. A disturbing incident.
George is disfigured with a snout-like face and he likes to remain in the shadows watching the children playing. He admits to not having had a proper childhood. He attends the church for one year then mysteriously leaves. John finds him odd and an enigma.
A sinister figure, a mad person, mysterious night-time wanderings in the graveyard and cryptic warnings linked to stigmata. recurrent nightmares. Why does Theo need protection? What is going on? Find out……….
ebook available from Amazon.
That makes "Theo" very hard to review for two reasons. First, I don't want to give spoilers for the other book. Secondly, I'm only guessing at the relationship between the two: they may have quite different themes. Perhaps it would be better to wait until I've read both? The trouble with that is any review would then be of a composite. So (if you've got this far at all) please bear with me - I've tried to review "Theo" as a standalone, without giving away too much.
The theme of this book would seem to be what happens when a disenchanted vicar, John Elliott, who is very much going through the motions in a failing parish, encounters - or thinks he has encountered - something genuinely miraculous, or at least supernatural. Surely he should be delighted? But his old tutor reacts with horror, and Social Services threaten to to intervene. There is a whiff of sulphur in what occurs next, and I felt that the reality - if it was reality - of what happens was rather lost among a panoply of horror tropes: nightmares, mysterious night-time wanderings in the churchyard, the mad ex-Vicar passing on cryptic warnings, a sinister figure who joins the congregation but won't take Communion, and so on. This is all rather different form what I've come to expect from Torday - solid stories about more or less capable people falling apart, but basically rational stories, stories about money, breakdowns, the shadier arms of Government. It sets up a question for me about whether "Light" will be a familiar Torday, or go further into this strange new world - and whether it will make anything clearer? (The other Torday isn't completely absent though - a strange figure gets the vicar to sign a letter confirming that he is a regular attendee at church. This is connected with a "business venture" - very Torday: one thinks of The Hopeless Life Of Charlie Summers - but at the same time there seems much more to George than meets the eye).
I've given the book "only" three stars (though note that means "It's OK" not "I don't like") because of this slight feeling of muddle, of not knowing where I am. That may be unfair to Torday, an author is entitled to strike out in a new direction if he or she wants - but I'm just not clear whether he is or not.
As a certified pedant (and husband to a vicar) I do want to point out a couple of glitches. Two (the Church of Scotland doesn't have dioceses, and Joseph of Arimathea - to whom John Elliott's church is dedicated - isn't usually regarded as a saint) don't really affect the story. A third - John's seeming total lack of support from colleagues or his parish - is rather central as it sets him up to believe he's failing. I found it just the wrong side of credible. That's not to say clergy always get all the support they should, only that what's described here seems a fairly extreme case of being left to sink or swim.
Footnote: having now read "Light Shining..." I think that book does explain a lot about what is going on here and - without wanting to give plot away - it does carry on the supernatural theme. However I'm not sure that the way Torday tackles that is very consistent across the books. To explain that involves spoilers so stop reading now if that bothers you.
The problem is, I think, that in "Light Shining..." Torday we have a very human portrayal of the abductor who kidnapped Theo (and other children) and an impliedly supernatural intervention in that situation. But in "Theo" there is instead implication of some sort of dark supernatural force behind Theo's abduction. It's fiction, so of course Torday can write what he wants, but to me the two books do seem to be coming from such different angles that the two books simply don't hang together.
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A great shame the author has died recently.