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on 6 December 2001
The second trilogy in the Starbridge books takes place in the 1960's. In this book Jon Darrow's son Nick is now a young man shortly before his ordination as a priest. Nick is in no way a model ordinand. Like his father he has psychic powers, and cannot resist the urge to show them off as parlour tricks to impress the girls. He has quite a collection of female admirers and has it all figured out - how to separate the nice girls from the bad ones, and, of course, when to go to Confession (not compulsory in the Church of England) only to start all over again. The central story in this book is Nick's obsession with finding out the truth about a friend who has died under mysterious circumstances. He also has deep-seated issues with his father Jon - now living as a wise but fallible recluse - and problems keeping his psychic powers under control. Nick tends to blunder from one mess into the other - but remains a loveable and sincere young man who needs to learn the lesson: I CAN BE WRONG.
In spite of Nick's charms I wasn't entirely captivated by this book. I never really developed an interest in Christian and couldn't quite follow Nick's fascinationwith him. Also I found the psychic-occult element a little tedious this time around; it had been dealt with adequately in Glamorous Powers, I felt. Nevertheless it's an important part of the series and it was wonderful getting to know Nick, and witnessing the love between him and Jon.
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on 30 May 2001
The Starbridge novels have all kept me gripped, and this one is no different. By now though I am finding the storyline of 'messed-up priest seeks redemption through sexual experimentation' slightly hackneyed.
Nonetheless, Susan Howatch is a good story-teller and the plot moves quickly and holds the readers attention. The background of the Church of England is interesting although I think that Susan Howatch focuses too much on one particular branch of it (high church) and I am not sure that she ever quite manages to capture the essence of spirituality (though who can?).
All in all a good read, but should be read with the others in the series.
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VINE VOICEon 9 January 2007
This final volume in Susan Howatch's magnificent Starbridge series is perhaps the most satisfactory in terms of plot, as it poses a real mystery alongside the expected psychological and spiritual development. Nick Darrow, son of mystical Jon, goes in search of Christian Aysgarth, son of belligerent Neville, thought to have been drowned in the Channel.

Nick is a psychic like his father, and believes that his special insight has revealed that Christian is not dead, but has abandoned his superfically successful but spiritually dead existence for something more meaningful. A vision, or perhaps a sighting, of Christian in the monastery garden at Grantchester only seems to confirm this. Nick's efforts to discover the truth lead him through the heights and depths of '60s society, from aristocratic parties to Christian's drug addict lover. He also has to contend with his own sexual frustrations, taken out on working class girls kept far away from his frightfully proper fiancée.

Frankly, I find Nick Darrow the most annoying character that Howatch has ever created. His arrogance is unmitigated by any charm, and though he apparently exercises some fascination for his acquaintances through psychic parlour tricks, these fail to convince me that he is more than a manipulative snob.

The book would have worked much better if we'd known Christian before it began. This is not a Golden Age, body-in-the-library mystery: it is character driven, and as such, if we don't care about the bloke who's dead and can't stand the one who's supposed to be avenging him, there's no hope for it.

This is actually much harsher than I mean it to be. I enjoyed the book, almost because of how annoying Nick is. I knew (because that's what happens to Howatch's heroes) that he would fall, and fall he did. The murky plot surrounding Christian's disappearance is an interesting departure from the purely spiritual concerns of the rest of the series, though the solution is so painfully obvious that it's quite incredible that Howatch does not surprise us with a twist at the end. Add to this the parade of every single possible character from the rest of the series, and some amusing additions in the shape of Christian's brothers Norman and James, and his old friend Perry Palmer, and you have a book that fans of the rest of the series will lap up, even though it is most definitely not the volume to start with.
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on 25 April 2010
I wonder if Mrs E. Green (see her review)was reading the same book? Well-worn cliches? I don't think so. Susan Howatch again strikes right to the heart of anyone concerned with issues of faith. Her incredible research and well-written analysis of differing branches of the Anglican Church from pre-war Britian to the trendy 60's is amazing. In Mystical Paths she brings in Jungian thought and also examines the relationship between a gifted son(Nick)trying to find his own true path without upsetting his charismatic gifted, elderly father (Jonathan Darrow)--who is the narrator in 'Glamourous Powers'.
Howatch cleverly introduces a new character (Lewis Hall), who is a key figure in her subsequent 'Wonder Worker' trilogy.
I have always enjoyed the Starbridge novels, and what makes them 'great' is the way each new reading brings greater insights into ones own life, as one reflects on the dilemmas of her well drawn characters. The sources of her introductory quotations lead any serious reader to fascinating further reading.
She is a true successor to Trollope--with the beauty of Salisbury (sorry, Starbridge!!)as the illuminating backdrop.
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on 2 June 2013
I have read the first three books in this fascinating series and wanted to find out what happens to the characters as time passes. They give a great insight into the workings of the Anglican church and have all the ingredients of a good read!
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on 29 June 2016
This well written book succeeds in integrating the language of psychology and the language of the church in describing what appear to be paranormal phenomena, all in the context of a story about people we come to believe in and care for. It is the last in the Starbridge series but opens the way to the London books.
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VINE VOICEon 25 September 2014
This must be one of the most frustrating books I've ever read. Nicholas Darrow, a young about to be ordained C of E priest, recounts his mystical struggles with demons of guilt, frustration, doubt etc. He is an unlikely protagonist, being one of the most self important and obnoxious characters I have ever encountered in a novel. His struggle isn't so much one of the spirit but appears to be a more bodily one as he has sex with one poor young woman after another, beats himself up about it and then carries on as before. He is incredibly stubborn and immature about accepting advice which would be believable if he were an adolescent but he's 25. I've read others in this series and enjoyed them but I didn't really like this at all.
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on 2 June 2016
Superb! Best books I have ever read. Susan howatch has completely changed my reading habits and even me as a person. I just adore the way they are so beautifully written, I really care about the characters especially Jon Darrow.
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on 27 November 2014
What can I say about this book, only that as usual it is extremely well written with so much about peoples difficulties within life. The fact that these stories are about people within the church makes it even more interesting, makes them human and therefore suffering the same problems as all people do.
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on 15 February 2016
There is nothing like Susan Howatch's Starbridge novels . Absolutely nothing
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