ABSOLUTE TRUTHS

Old wounds are healed and new loves found on Starbridge Close in this, the final novel in the bestselling sextet (Glittering Images, 1987, Mystical Paths, 1992, et al.), which, like its predecessors, transforms the private lives of English high churchmen into an absorbing novel of intrigue and mysteries, divine and temporal. In a nice symmetrical touch, the narrator is again Dr. Charles Ashworth, whose adventures began the series. Now in his 80s, Ashworth, prompted by the obituary of old nemesis Neville Aysgarth, recalls the events of ``the year of my third catastrophe.'' That year is 1965, and Ashworth is a bishop ``famous for defending tradition at a time when all traditions were under attack.'' Such rigid adherence to absolute truths is asking for trouble, and sure enough trouble is soon on its way. An elderly homosexual vicar is found beaten up; to avoid scandal, Ashworth hides the old man's porn collection from the police; son Michael threatens to marry a most unsuitable girl; Aysgarth is being suspiciously cagey about the Cathedral fund-raising accounts; and Lyle, Ashworth's beloved wife, suddenly dies. As Ashworth responds to these crises, grief and the knowledge that he had not helped Lyle when she needed it makes him behave erratically. He sleeps with a widow, drinks too much, quarrels with his sons and Aysgarth. He has a terrifying encounter in the Cathedral, which convinces him it is possessed by demons. But spiritual peace and new love—an old flame from the past turns up—only come to the bishop when charismatic Lewis Hall conducts a dramatic exorcism that reveals the Cathedral's demons to be Ashworth's long-suppressed guilt, and when aging mystic Jon Darrow elicits confessions from both Aysgarth and Ashworth. A superb climax to a sequence that has triumphantly vindicated that ill-assorted gang of four—plot, prayer, perfidy, and priests. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-41206-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1994

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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