An UnQuiet Disbelief in Angels

Not everyone sees things the same way. That's one of the ideas that underpins this book "A Quiet Belief in Angels" and I clearly see it in different way from most of those who have been writing about it.

People have been saying what a fabulous book this is... "beautiful... haunting..." claims Michael Connolly on the back cover... "Wow!" says one highly literate reviewer on Amazon, while another tells about sitting up half the night to finish this in a single sitting.

It took me ages to finish this... in fact, the thought of not finishing it haunted me (I'm one of these sad people who refuses to give up on a book once started... not something I am proud of... its an affliction rather than a positive attribute). I ended up reading late into the night to finish it, but only because I couldn't bear the spectre of it looming over me throughout Christmas... Because, despite the mention of angels in the title, this is no uplifting seasonal read, nor even an air-headed new-age informed novel offering a vision of "the other side"... no, this is an unremittingly grim trudge through decades of one unfortunate man's life... And if it is to be compared to any part of the Christmas story it is the part that we rarely see on Christmas cards, that is, the massacre of the innocents: because it is the serial murder of young girls that acts as the backdrop to this cheery little number.

One on-line reviewer describes the plot as being "kind of like 'Stand By Me', 'To Kill A Mockingbird', 'In Cold Blood', John Steinbeck, The Shawshank Redemption..." And therein is the issue... It is a cut and paste "great American novel" with no clearly defined plot but affecting a faux-lyricism. It has a lot of similarities to Carlos Ruiz Zafón's "The Shadow of the Wind": both use books as a plot device, both have received huge literary acclaim, both are deeply depressing and littered with dead bodies, and both seem to be informed by a pseudo-spirituality that pervades a lot of modern high end literature and film... A nebulous sense of an intangible other... (both were also recommended by Richard and Judy's Book Club, which is not, despite obvious appearances, necessarily a bad thing... though I do always peel their "Recommended" sticker off when reading these books in public in a vague attempt to retain any street credibility)

And I hated both...

There is an extent to which in terms of both literature and film I am a cultural philistine... I am embarrassed by the books and films that I actually engage in for pleasure... They are, in many ways, intellectual junk-food... But after chewing my way through this piece of literary nouvelle cuisine, I hope someone has bought me something more akin to a KFC for Christmas...

But to return to my opening observation, not everyone sees everything in the same way, and I respect the right of others to "enjoy" such literature... Although my mind is drawn to the works of Hans Christian Anderson and the boy who saw what everyone else saw but refused to say out loud...


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