Top critical review
15 people found this helpful
Time for something new?
on 3 February 2005
Howatch is such an excellent storyteller that this book is as compelling as her others, but her theme is becoming repetitive.
Her six Starbridge novels all present different perspectives on the Church of England, but the three St Benet's novels (of which this is the third) all have essentially the same perspective on spiritual healing in the modern world. As a whole, the nine books have presented a fascinating and intelligent portrait inside a world relatively unfamiliar to most of us, but Howatch seems to have run out of things to say about it. So, instead of developing her theme, she has simply increasingly marginalised her characters. In this case a classy rent boy tries to escape his life among extreme sadists and controllers and finds - surprise surprise! - that doing so requires the healing of childhood wounds. Recognise anything, Howatch fans?
To enjoy these books you need an interest in the spiritual, and you need to be able to handle Howatch's way of describing spiritual matters by using layers of metaphor - a technique that won't appeal to everybody. If you are happy with these things, you may well find this book a page-turner - I did. Nevertheless, I ended it feeling slightly unsatisfied. Thanks for the enjoyable read, Ms Howatch - you still tell a story better than almost anybody. But I feel there are clear signs that it's time to move on.