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on 23 June 2017
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on 18 July 2013
In spite of its somewhat lurid cover, Michael Arditti's latest book is the elegant, thoughtful and powerful work which we have come to expect of him. Other reviewers have mentioned Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, and it is certain that the religious themes, ruthless soul searchings, unexpected flashes of humour and fascinating characters remind the reader of Greene and Waugh at every turn. The intensity and originality of this book will draw you into the heat and danger of the Marcos dictatorship.
This is a five-star summer read. You will be captivated, moved, educated, thrilled - never bored.
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on 21 August 2013
A novel of ideas that is also a page-turner. What more could you ask.
The Breath of Night has Michael Arditti's usual interest in matters religious but it is also something of a detective story and a vivid evocation of both the corruption of Marcos' Philippines and the resilience of its people. The wavering border between active Liberation Theology and outright revolutionary violence is explored with acumen and understanding and the conflicts and compromises in the minds of both the passionate worker priests and the cautious Vatican is given thought-provoking and controversial focus.
What's more, the prose sings. I hugely enjoyed this novel and certainly recommend it.
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on 27 August 2013
Reading Michael Arditti's 'The Breath of Night' is like listening to music which comes from elsewhere. It is evening, the windows are open and a piano is playing and you are transported to another time and place. In Arditti's latest novel the place is the Philippines and the time flits back and forth from the present day to the recent past. An Englishman, Philip Seward, is sent by a family to ascertain whether their relative, a Jesuit priest now dead, deserves to become a saint. Ardittti shows that what we hold to be true and what is true are two very different things. If a tree falls in a forest, but nobody hears it- does it make a sound? Nothing in this novel is as it seems. There is a wonderful cast of saints and sinners and quite a lot else in between. An innocent abroad Seward is soon seduced by the Philippines and its people, but like a swimmer taken by a rip tide, he is hopelessly out of his depth. As he flounders and sinks, we can only watch horrified as the waters begin to close over his head. "Get out you fool!" you want to shout...."Can't you hear the music?" No, of course he can't.
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on 25 July 2013
This book was unsettling and disturbing. I couldn't put it down and read it over the course of two days. It is much more than a holiday read and the subject matter very relevant to my own vocation. Anyone who is at all religious will find it challenging and yet at the same time strangely cathartic, even therapeutic. I found myself identifying with one of the central characters, Fr Julian Tremayne. He's a missionary priest in a remote Philippine village during the Marcos Dictatorship. His letters home hide so much more than they reveal.

Philip Seward, the other protagonist, is a tragic character caught up in events beyond his control and which exceed his wildest imaginings. One senses an underlying current of doom that characterizes all human life and expectation. Vice, cruelty, corruption, betrayal and sexual depravity eventually take their toll on his existence. Sent out from England by Julian's family to investigate the cult of sainthood that has gathered around the priest, Philip Seward encounters a situation where nothing and no one is what they appear to be.

I shall have to read the book again quite soon, and not merely to be entertained, but to understand the psychological and philosophical ideas that Michael Arditti weaves throughout his brilliant novel.
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on 9 July 2013
Introduce Evelyn Waugh to Carl Hiaasen; bring in Graham Greene and you just might get a book as good as Arditti's dark, engrossing and very funny novel, a psychological thriller set in the Philippines. Always an intriguing writer, Arditti has matched a wonderful subject and location to an unforgettable cast of characters. Terrific stuff.
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on 23 July 2013
I enjoyed "Unity" and thought I would try this latest Arditti book.
What a surprise!
This is a real thriller in many ways and I learnt so much about the politics of the Philippines,
conflicting religious views and their consequences and the emotional evolution of man and society.

I was pleased to have discovered this book and am confident in recommending it to readers of all ages
and all walks of life.
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on 16 October 2013
Michael Arditti breaks new ground and he may be literary but now he proves he can be commercial. This is very much a Graham Greene style - a tropical island,a damaged priest - is he a hero or not? - a young man who goes in search of the truth and gets wound up in a bizarre labyrinth of people and adventures, good and bad, this keeps you turning pages.

Of course, this is thought-provoking, especially about the island (Imelda is a nice touch) but at heart this is a story that engages and pulls you in. And there's a twist at the end. Super. Worth every penny.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 March 2014
A book set in the Philippines that goes where not many contemporary British writers have ventured…

Set in the 1970s / 80s (the era of the Marcos dictatorship) and the current day, the book – in alternate chapters – follows the progression of Father Julian from priest sent out as a missionary from the UK to the Philippines and Philip, his would-have-been-nephew-in-law (had his niece not been killed in a car crash…) who has been dispatched by the family to Manila to try and speed Julian’s passage to sainthood…there being several tales of miracles having been performed by the priest.

Julian’s chapters are written as letters home to his mother and father. The device works well. Philip’s are written as conventional narrative. Sometimes (just sometimes…) a little hard to remember exactly where one chapter closed off as you return to that half of the story fifteen pages later. But that is a niggle. Julian’s chapters tell the story of how the innocent and earnest priest from England was increasingly shocked at the feudalism and corruption in the Philippines – and at the acceptance by the Catholic Church of such practices. The senior members of the arch diocese were all prepared to turn a blind eye to the resulting extremes of poverty. Julian was perhaps a little like the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster who have both spoken out in recent weeks about the government’s welfare reforms and their impact on the poor. Not a popular position to espouse with those in authority… The Breath of Night goes right to the core of the relationship between church and state – and shies away from nothing.

Julian develops into a passive, and then active, sympathiser with communist guerillas. Eventually he is deemed to have been shot by them (no one quite knows why) and his body is later found.

Philip’s journey of discovery is just as dramatic. He is assisted in his quest by Max (an aging and effete business associate of Julian’s family) and by his driver, Dennis – go go dancer and generally ‘dodgy’ person. The trail leads to gangland, prostitutes, and the rubbish tips of Manila – even to prison. He receives false tips, and tip offs, as he searches for what really happened to Julian, what his secret underground life was all about, and whether – indeed – he did actually perform any miracles.

The story builds to what was, for me, an unexpected denouement. Unexpected, but in no way disappointing.

The Breath of Night is a very hard book to classify. It is full of larger than life characters and events. It is at times actually very funny – but also very serious in its subject matter. The Philippines, both current day and in the 80s, is painted as a moral maze where everything is not quite as it seems to be – and corruption, and its consequences, are rife. It poses at least as many questions as it answers – and not much distinction is drawn between the Marcos years and the present day… only the actors are different. I doubt Arditti is very popular there…

It is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed – and have thought about quite a lot since I finished it.
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on 6 August 2013
Arditti's admirers will be familiar with his nuanced approach to moral dilemmas; things are never 'black' or 'white' in his depiction of society, but shades of - often very dark - grey. Nor do things get much darker than the cruelties depicted here. For the novel is set in the Philippines, during the Marcos era; its central character a Catholic priest, sent out to minister to a remote rural parish during the early 1970s, who becomes gradually - and inexorably - drawn into the political conflicts of the region, and bears horrified witness to the atrocities inflicted by the dictatorship on his parishioners and others. For Julian Tremayne, the choice becomes clear: either he must turns a blind eye to such brutality, and concentrate on the spiritual side of his ministry, or he must become an 'active', not a 'passive', Christian, and fight for his parishioners' human rights. It's a fascinating dilemma, dramatized - as so often in Arditti's novels - with powerful realism and energy. One feels, from the very first page, that one simply cannot put this book down. Not only is the narrative utterly compelling from start to finish, but there is a richness to the writing that makes every scene come alive. Page after page of vivid description offers a feeling of authenticity - of lived experience, of time and place. For any reader familiar with the Philippines, there will be a shock of recognition; for those unfamiliar, the sense that one is discovering more and more about a fascinating, and often troubling, world. Adding further complexity to an already highly charged tale is the 'double' structure of the narrative. For Julian's 1970s story - told in letters - is framed within a contemporary account. The narrator, Philip Seward, is a naive young man dispatched on a mission even he barely understands. This is to investigate alleged 'proofs' of the martyred Julian's sainthood, in order to further the process of his canonisation. Again,this is explored with great subtlety, so that one is never quite sure how much is 'real', and how much delusion. The descriptions of Philip's encounters with Manila low-life veer between farce and horror, but are never less than entertaining. Wonderfully vivid, dark and occasionally disturbing, this is Arditti at the top of his form.
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