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I first read Susan Howatch's series of novels about the Church of England back in the 1980s and was curious to see if they had stood the test of time. Listening to this one, beautifully interpreted in the voice of Sian Thomas, I was not disappointed. Starbridge and its Cathedral Close is the setting for a surprising tale of illicit clerical love in the swinging sixties. "Honest to God" has just been published and is rocking the church just as "Lady Chatterley's Lover" is shocking the country. So evocative of the "swinging sixties", this book is not only a very entertaining read but also a valid and serious look at social history.
I was sorry when it ended but happy that Venetia and her talisman reappear as the series progresses. Highly recommended for any who remember those times (and any who would like to have lived through them!).
A bit of a twentieth century "Barchester" Chronicle (Anthony Trollope) - it is a tale of cathedral politics and clerical families with a twist of scandal.
Hoping Audible is going to publish the entire sequence!
Having read this book as part of the series when it was first published, this was a lovely trip down memory lane. The quality of the narration is outstanding and makes all the difference. I found myself staying in bed for another hour just to carry on listening. This was my first book from Audible and if the standard is this high I will definitely be back for more.
I have read all of the Starbridge series of books and was delighted when I realized that they were available in audio. The first one I bought was my favourite in the book series - Glamorous Powers. This was a sad disappointment because the main character, Father Jonathon Darrow,who features in the whole series and whom I invariably found to be fascinating and attractive in the books, came over as a mysogynistic old bore on audio. This was interesting since the reader was reading exactly what Susan Howatch had written, but presumably his view of Darrow differed from my own, and it all came down to voice and inflection. With Scandalous Risks I found the main character in the book version, Venetia Flaxman, vapid and irritating while the behaviour of Neville Aysgarth, the Dean, (who also features in all the books) seemed extremely improbable. However, the audio version came over as quite the opposite. It was brillliantly and sympathetically read and one could easily identify with Venetia as the story unfolded. To me these books are a fascinating example of how audio and the characterisations of the characters by the reader can make or break a book utterly. I hope all the Starbridge books become available in Audio one of these days and also - forlorn hope - that they will re-record Glamorous Powers with someone else doing the narration!
"Love the series"
Love the series
When Eddie confronts Venetia about her affair.
All of it.
I love the STarbridge series and wish Audible carried all of them as they should be read/listened to in order. I wish Audible would add Glittering Images and Ultimate Prizes to the collection.
This series was recommended to me about 3 years ago by a friend but I didn't start reading it until the beginning of last month. Since then I have finished four book in the series and already picked up the fifth.
The first three I read on kindle, but when I saw this was whispersync enabled (and that I can get both the kindle and the audible version for just a little more than the audio version on its own, I bought it that way.
I listened to most of this, but read a little bit. The audio narration is very good. In the series this is the first (and only) narrated by someone that is not a clergy member.
The series could be called Christian Fiction. But I am hesitant to use that label because I usually hate Christian fiction. This is not the overly sentimental, knock you over the head with the gospel and all turns out ok in the end once everyone becomes a Christian type of Christian fiction.
Instead this is a type of fiction that takes seriously a real faith in God, the reality of sin, the weakness of humanity and the redemption of sinners (even if the results of their sin can wreck the rest of their life.)
The whole series is a bit on the heady side. Often using a real or imagined work of theology to guide the story. In this case it is the real 1960s book Honest to God by Bishop Robinson (which is playing a fairly similar roll as Rob Bell's Love Wins).
This book picks up about 20 years later from the end of Ultimate Prizes with Neville (now calling himself Stephen). He has continued to take 'scandalous risks' and continued his drinking and now has started an emotional affair with his daughter's friend (and the daughter of one of his best friends). The story goes further but I will not reveal more.
For a series that is not given to sentimental happy endings, this is even more bleak than the previous three books. But it seems honest.
I would read the whole series, it is worth it.
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