Your Brain is Green
Of all the brain types, yours has the most balance. You are able to see all sides to most problems and are a good problem solver. You need time to work out your thoughts, but you don't get stuck in bad thinking patterns. You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the future, philosophy, and relationships (both personal and intellectual).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Susan Howatch

In general, I give books with female authors and sensuous pictures on the cover a pass – Danielle Steel, for example, doesn't interest me in the least. So I have often passed over the audiobooks of Susan Howatch available on, but when I read the reviews of "Glamorous Powers", I was intrigued, and the audio sample was very well read. It was fantastic. In quick order I ordered the first and third books of the first "Starbridge" trilogy ("Powers" being the second) and devoured them. I also listened to "The Rich are Different", and "Sins of the Fathers", which belong to an earlier, "historical romance" phase. I don't really think that's a good description, but I don't know what else to call the Caesar/Cleopatra/Antony/Augustus story, set in the 1920s to 1950s, with Paul van Zale/Caesar an investment banker. Sounds awful, doesn't it? In the hands of another writer, it might be, but Howatch carries it off magnificently. I'm currently waiting for three more of her books in this genre: "Cashelmara", "Penmarric", and "Wheel of Fortune", which, I understand, are based on Plantagenet history, transplanted to the 19th century.

The "Starbridge" novels, consisting of two trilogies, the first in the 30s and 40s, and the second ending in the 60s (I believe) are followed by a third trilogy, the "St. Benet" trilogy, which carries the story into the 90s. At the heart of all the books are Jonathan Darrow and his son, Nicholas. Both clergymen in the Church of England's "High Church" end of the spectrum, both are unusually psychically sensitive and involved in spiritual counselling and healing. The first two trilogies are mostly concerned with clergymen in various states of nervous and spiritual breakdown; the third set of books has more of an emphasis on those secular persons who Nicholas attempts to heal. In my opinion, while interesting, it is the weakest set of the books, and I personally gravitate more toward Nicholas' mentor and assistant, Lewis Hall (the great-nephew, incidentally, of Nicholas' father's mentor), who is an older, rather curmudgeonly man which a sex drive which gives him problems (since he's divorced, and C of E clergymen are expected to be either married or celibate). It's not that Nicholas is a nonentity, but he's a pale shadow of his father, who is a very charismatic and forceful personality. There is a strong psychological component in the discussions of spiritual direction, but the language, most of the time, is religious rather than psychological, and I'd be happier if the "healing" was in the name of God (which, actually, it is, most of the time) rather than Jesus, who, for me, is a false god. I don't really have a problem with the idea that "demonic forces" are synonomous with neuroses. The implication is that, if there IS spiritual healing which happens in the name of a false god, then [1] either the real God is doing it regardless of the religious orientation of either the patient or the healer, or [2] it would have happened without any recourse to any divinity whatsoever. Once or twice in the books there are scenes in which phrases and actions associated with exorcism are invoked ("Depart, Satan!" or "In the Name of Jesus Christ, leave this person!") with a cross being flourished, and one of the "villains" cannot speak Jesus' name (why wouldn't she, probably with an expletive attached? Plenty of wicked and highly neurotic people do call on Jesus all the time, without ill effect [or beneficial effect, for that matter]. The whole concept that there is something unique about Christian healing (what happens if a Christian is prayed for by a group of Hindus?) makes me uncomfortable. As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, Christianity makes me uneasy in a lot of ways. I'd be interested in knowing what clergymen think of Howatch's books.

In any case, I highly recommend her work.


Anonymous said...

I remember enjoying the series very much quite a few years back. I have not read anything by her in years, so maybe I should re-read. I liked that the view of the various characters changed based on who was first person in a particular book, and how the series moved along through the years with each book. Very interesting way of writing.

Susan said...

*Of course,* the idea of something unique about Christian healing makes you nervous, if you are not yourself a Christian. The thing is, Christianity is almost entirely counter-intuitive, so that belief or unbelief is always a matter of choice, and whichever choice you make gives you its own lens to view through.

I have chosen to believe, and therefore perceive the power in the name of Jesus. Those who don't believe attribute healings in his name to other causes. But I do agree with you that all healing comes from God, and not all healing comes through specifically Christian mediation.