Kirkus Star


Email this review


With this second book in her intended trilogy about the Church of England, Howatch demonstrates that she's turned into a veritable ecclesiastical le CarrÉ, here probing the tortured personality of an Anglican priest who is both gifted and cursed with psychic powers. Abbot Jon Darrow, who like others here made an appearance in the trilogy's debut, Glittering Images, has a vision of a chapel in a dell and a traveling case. So shattered is he by what it might signify that he takes himself before his Abbot General, Francis Ingrain, once his archrival, now his superior, and a man he thoroughly distrusts. In a series of bracing interrogations, Ingrain forces Jon to face the fact that his vision was more the product of a seriously strained mind than a gift from God, and that he must now leave the cloistered Fordite Order that for 17 years has been his home. But no sooner does Jon venture forth into the world than elements from his vision begin recurring in real life. The traveling case belongs to a young woman, with whom 60-year-old Jon falls precipitously in love. Timorously, he marries Anne Barton-Woods, fearing all the while that he'll never be able to make her happy, then turns the country parish where he serves as curate into a roiling disaster with faith-healing and exorcisms. It takes the tragedy of Anne's miscarriage to make him finally confront the myriad, crippling guilts that have caused him to subvert his glamorous powers--powers a spiritual advisor once wisely warned him ""can so easily be purloined by the Devil."" Howatch's Anglican novels get better and more searching with every go, though they speak to a far more specialized audience than do the sagas that made her name a household word.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1988
ISBN: 1616842989
Publisher: Knopf