Friday, 9 November 2012

Review: The Communion of the Saint

The Communion of the Saint
The Communion of the Saint by Alan David Justice

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a long time to listen to this on Podiobooks, and I finally finished it when I'd run out of other things to listen to. I think there are two main reasons.

Firstly, it's often emotionally intense, and I'm not in the mood for that very often. I know I'm at one end of a spectrum there, so that's more a fault in me than one in the book. If anything, it's one of the book's strengths.

The other reason, though, is that I found the main character (and first-person narrator) unappealing. I don't call her the protagonist, because most of the time she isn't. She actively resists doing anything. She's an American historian named Clio (after the muse of history) who goes to St Albans in England and, guided by St Alban himself, starts experiencing the lives of people from the past. Now, you'd think that, however emotionally wrenching the actual lives are, a historian would love this opportunity, but no.

I don't usually analyse books using the Hero's Journey, but Clio takes refusing the call to a whole new level, stretching it out almost the full length of the book. Frankly, I got sick of her whining. "Why me? I didn't ask for this!" She said those same words over and over until I felt like shaking her. She treated everyone else badly, even (in fact, especially) when they were good to her. She was refusing the call because she feared that, like her mother, she was becoming psychotic. She wasn't psychotic. She was neurotic, and annoyingly so.

The historical flashbacks are well done, though perhaps too numerous (I think the whole book could benefit from being shorter - it might pick up the languid pace). Emotion is well conveyed, though not to my taste. I felt, though, that the religious aspect of the story was lacking much content. There didn't seem to be any particular message coming through the mysticism.

It's skilfully written, and I think that's what ultimately kept me going to the end. But I didn't like it much.

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