ABSOLUTE TRUTHS by Susan Howatch


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 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. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-41206-9
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994


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