The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale
|The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Militant atheism takes on angelic visions in this wide-ranging book with a parallel narrative that takes us from the trenches of WWI to today's War on Terror. Bookbag loved the general idea and the quality of the writing, but failed to engage with any of the characters and found it rather cluttered.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: January 2011|
|Publisher: Black Swan|
|External links: Author's website|
Daniel Kennedy is a soon-to-be professor of zoology and a militant atheist. With a beautiful and successful dentist for a partner, and an intelligent, precocious nine-year-old daughter, his life is what you might call gilded. Novels as they are, though, things soon begin to fall apart. On their way to a holiday in the Galapagos Islands, Daniel and Nancy's plane crashes into the sea. Daniel swims for miles to get help and, just as all seems lost and he's on the point of drowning, a mysterious figure appears and guides him to the shore and rescue.
Back at home, there's music to be faced. Daniel had climbed over Nancy in an adrenalin-fuelled rush to find an air pocket and although he went back to rescue her, their relationship has been fatally damaged. Refusing to believe in angelic intervention, Daniel's search for a rational explanation for his watery vision leads only to worries about his health. It could be brain damage. Added to this, a colleague is leading a campaign to undermine him, he narrowly escapes a terrorist bombing, and his daughter comes under threat. It seems that miracles come at a price.
Back in 1918, Daniel's greatgrandfather finds himself in the trenches in France. Going over the top on the first day of the Battle of Paschendaele, he finds himself marooned in No Man's Land. Guided through it by an equally mysterious figure, he fails to return to his unit, setting up as a plumber in a French village and falling in love with his landlady. Andrew Kennedy will pay a price for his angelic intervention, too...
Um... I really wanted to like The Blasphemer, and in many ways, I did. It's beautifully written and its words are a pleasure to read. It's ambitious and interesting too. There's a huge cast of characters and it deals with many of our current preoccupations. I'm an atheist, but I wouldn't describe myself as a militant one, and I'm sure there's something in the way we describe atheists a militant while believers are evangelical. Daniel has to face the after effects of an experience for which, ultimately, his rationalism has no explanation. That's interesting.
However, miraculous explanations notwithstanding, there are just too many neat coincidences for my tastes. And I just couldn't engage with any of the characters in the present day part of the narrative. When you don't like people, you just don't care if they're having a rotten time or if a nasty colleague is doing them down behind their backs, and frankly, I didn't like Daniel at all. He's a self-absorbed, lucky man, with no real understanding of his own good fortune.
The Blasphemer was a mixed bag for me, I'm afraid - it had lots of promise, but I'm not sure it delivered.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale at Amazon.com.
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