Monday, 10 January 2011
The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale
The Blasphemer is one of those novels which starts off great but unfortunately started to fall apart for me and was completely unravelled by the end.
The main character Daniel Kennedy is a scientist and quite the aggressive atheist (think Richard Dawkins aggressive) David takes his partner and the mother of his child on a trip to the Galapagos Islands and while there, their small sea plane crashes into the sea. It is while swimming to shore in order to save his fellow passengers that David sees a vision. Was this vision a mere symptom of his fatigue and stress or a guardian angel?
While that plot line is interesting enough, running parallel to this is the story of Daniel’s great-grand father and his experiences in World War I as he prepares to go over the top on the first day of the fighting at Passchendaele.
The novel starts promisingly enough and there are some really good ideas. The World War I scenes are quite good (but not a patch on Birdsong) and I liked the whole concept of the scientist atheist coming across something he is unable to explain. There are so many good ideas and different plot threads but unfortunately they did not always gel together well enough with some plot elements not working sufficiently well.
There is a bizarre Muslim terrorist sub-plot which has no reason at all to be in the novel and is never concluded. The only Muslim character in the book is a teacher who is being trailed by the police for no reason at all and, by the polices own admission, the guy has done nothing wrong. I just found this really unnecessary and out of place.
Then there is Daniel’s work colleague Weatherby; a devout Christian with an evil streak taken to almost comical proportions (think sleazy professor who likes to sleep with his students, which has been done a million times before) and seems intent on ruining Daniels life for no reason whatsoever.
Religion and belief is a big theme in the novel and Daniel has quite a few religious debates throughout the novel with both Wetherby (who is a professor) and his best friend (who is a doctor.) But despite these three grown men having highly professional intelligent careers, the ‘debates’ never go beyond ‘well you’ve never seen Greenland so how do you KNOW that exists’. Honestly! That’s the kind of religious debate a child would have – with another child.
Finally I quite like happy endings I really do. But not when the author has to make the plot more and more convoluted within the last 40 pages in order to get there.
Well yes I have a lot of bad to say about this one (believe me;I could have gone on) but I did read to the end because the plot was interesting and I did want to see how it all ended. It wasn't as bad as I have made out in this review but two days after I have finished reading it I am unable to remember any of the novel's stronger points.
Overall it did engage me but ultimately it could have been better executed.
Posted by Jess