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All Hallows' Eve

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  682 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Williams had a genius for choosing strange themes for novels, making them believably suggestive of spiritual truths. All Hallows' Eve is the story of a man & woman whose love was so great it could bridge the gap of death; of evil so terrible as to be unmentionable, of a vision so beautiful it must be true.
For an account of Williams' views of the relations between dead
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Paperback, 273 pages
Published October 1st 1986 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (first published 1945)
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John Mabry
Of all the books I have ever read, this is the one that had the most profound impact on my life. I call this "the book that started the avalanche that brought me here." It's not the best book every written from a literary standpoint--indeed, Williams has serious flaws as a writer of fiction. I'm not saying it's the book I enjoyed most (PILLARS OF THE EARTH warrants that distinction). I'm saying that this book changed my life direction, and more than any other book I have ever read, it made me wh ...more
David
Charles Williams's novels are powerful. His style is hard to read because many of his sentences are overly complex and his ideas of reality and spirituality are so intricate and unique that readers just don't know what he's talking about. (The commentary The Novels of Charles Williams is helpful.) But it's all so powerful. The spiritual realm is incredibly vivid and real and inter-woven with the natural realm. In fact, it is a unity with it rather than a separate entity. In Williams' novels, the ...more
Brenda Clough
Charles Williams's best novel, and probably the most accessible to the modern reader. Any book that begins with the death of the heroine and the proceeds on to her further adventures has an interesting plot arc, you will agree.
Charles Williams was one of C.S. Lewis's best friends, but he had quite a different writing style. He's esoteric and difficult, better read than you and me and not slow to let you know it. His novels can be hard, and his poetry, wow! just about impossible.
But he carved out
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Julian
Let me start off with two observations. The first is that this book doesn't scale the heights of masterpieces like The Place of the Lion or The Greater Trumps, that it does not portray so clearly the implacable eruption of supernatural powers into the mundane world and the reaction to them of the worldlings. Rather, like, say Descent into Hell, it shows a world where natural and supernatural coexist and interact, though this book has a more positive resolution.

The second is that it is still abso
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Karen L.
Nov 03, 2008 Karen L. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Supernatural thriller lovers
Recommended to Karen L. by: my old friend Jeff C.
Shelves: classics, sc-fi
This book from the very beginning was like a supernatural journey to places I have never been. There was absolutely nothing predictable about the book. Page by page, it kept stirring my curiosity. It was well written and the characters were also well developed. T.S. Elliot said of Williams, " "To him the supernatural was perfectly natural, and the natural was also supernatural." Though he was a man of Christian faith, there is no mention of God or Jesus in any of the story. There is this Simon c ...more
Erik Graff
Aug 15, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Williams' fans
Recommended to Erik by: Barry Wood
Shelves: literature
My work study position at Union Theological Seminary was as a security guard, usually working nights. The job allowed much time for study, only four rounds through campus being required. I spent most of that 'free' time in the Women's Center, a lounge on the ground floor and near the entrance to Knox Hall, a residence for faculty.
During the first two of my four years at UTS I was befriended and often visited at work by Barry Wood, an Episcopal priest who also happened to be the school's physici
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Brenda Clough
Williams is a difficult author, most famous nowadays for being one of C.S. Lewis's boon companions in the Inklings. This novel is unquestionably his best, and most accessible to the modern reader. (His poetry, wow! That's tough sledding.)
A novel which begins with the death of the heroine is starting out on the right foot. From there the hijinks snap right along. This is a grand book, with both vast spiritual conflicts and tiny battles. Williams orchestrates everything into a grand climax that i
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Tara
More like a chess game of metaphysics cloaked in poetry than a novel. It's very beautiful, but I must admit more than a little bit was beyond me. Like everything Williams wrote, one must pay close attention, re-read things as many times as necessary, and sincerely be able to allow him to shatter conventional story-telling while still creating a story. Even with all that I can say Williams seems to have understood things I simply cannot. But his goodness radiates off the page, and is worth pursui ...more
Paul Dinger
This is one of the strangest books ever written. A young woman dies to discover a London that looks right out of Dante. A painter does a portrait of a minister and discovers he has painted beetles, and the minister thanks him for it! A magician sends someone to the future. And somehow, this is all a deeply religious book. Williams, a favored friend of C. S. Lewis wrote this and several other very strange novels. All of them are great reads while being deeply, deeply strange.
Roy
Charles Williams writes on the margin of the physical and metaphysical and this is the best example of his storytelling. We learn how the characters -- and ourselves as readers -- react when we are touched by the spiritual world. This a wonderful mix of historical fiction, spiritual challenge, and thought-provoking insight into human thinking. His writing draws me in every time and I truly enjoy the art he practiced.
Laura
Feb 13, 2012 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: J. I. Packer
I think that this is my favorite novel. As in, ever. And I have read a lot of books. ;) "What makes it so amazing?" you might ask. It has some of the strongest and most beautiful women characters of any book I've read. It also has one of the most fantastic premises of any book I've read. But I love how this story highlights the spiritual reality that is a part of our natural world.
Don Incognito
I was a literature major, trained to read novels the average reader wouldn't read, so I've probably never called a novel exhausting before; but that's what reading All Hallows' Eve was--exhausting. It's only about 275 pages, but it took me months to read, mostly because it demanded all my concentration and I often didn't have the energy.

The issue isn't the story, it's Charles Williams' questionable writing style. It very frequently segues into a dense, meandering pseudo-poetry that makes the nar
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Ali M.
Like The Place of the Lion, this is a deeply strange novel that’s not concerned with explaining its particular brand of madness to you. Williams writes in long, dense, loaded sentences with little breathing room. He can get a bit too abstract at times, forgetting to let the story do the philosophical work for him, but his imagery is so original and arresting that it's worth the effort.

All Hallows’ Eve is driven by the relationship between three female friends—it just so happens that two of them
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Adam Ross
Definitely not a book for the faint of heart. Strange, ethereal, and downright creepy, Charles Williams (one of the Inklings with C. S. Lewis and Tolkien) was a Christian Platonist and knew how to tell a story. I'm not even sure how to summarize the plot; a young newly wed woman is killed in an airplane crash in London. She dies and is wandering through the archetypal City with a friend (also killed in the crash) who she finds annoying. Meanwhile her widower goes over to a friend's house and see ...more
Philip Cherny
This was my first experience with Charles Williams, and I'd be willing to read more from the author. A very peculiar book with a unique take on the fantasy genre, if I could even classify this as fantasy. I might even go so far as to classify it as a work of contemporary fantasy, but the bizarre juxtapositions between the occult with Christian mysticism and the ordinary humdrum post-War life place this work in its own category. Apparently Williams was one of the first scholars to translate Kierk ...more
David Johnston
Charles Williams was one of the Inklings and friend of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. You can see Williams' influence on his Oxford friend in Lewis' That Hideous Strength (the last book in Lewis's space trilogy) and in the Great Divorce. He was also friends with T.S Eliot who wrote the preface to this book. This has to be one of the best books Williams wrote and the first chapter is one of the creepiest beginnings I've ever read. Two of the main characters are dead (although they are unaware of ...more
Eli
Charles Williams more or less invented what we'd now call "urban fantasy", and was a huge influence on C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, but his dense, idiosyncratic writing and philosophical/theological obsessions make his books a little daunting. They're all worth the effort, but this one is probably the closest to a successful novel and it's a page-turner too-- sort of the "evil sorcerer, wandering ghosts and star-crossed lovers" story to end all such stories. There are some images that make your heart ...more
Gina Dalfonzo
I haven't read Williams since college, but I'm glad I gave him another try. He's still a very difficult writer, but I didn't find him as difficult as before. (Maybe in another 20 years he'll be downright easy to read! :-) ) And the depth of his insight into spiritual matters and human nature is astonishing. This book left me wanting to be a better person, without ever once making me feel as if I were being preached at.
Suzannah
Like all Williams's novels, All Hallows' Eve meshes a strong plot with profound philosophical and theological meditation. Williams at once affirms the everyday world and the spiritual world behind it. Like the painter, Jonathan, who claims that he paints what he sees though "common observation and plain understanding", Williams would say that he simply writes about what is there. He may even have objected to his books being called "fantasy"--yes, they are tales of ordinary people joining a titan ...more
Micha
All Hallow's Eve is an amazing book in that it explores both the question of 'what happens when you die?' as well as 'what is the relationship between the dead and the living?'. The way that Williams interweaves relationships and spirituality is nothing short of genius. Anyone who is even remotely interested in mysticism will really enjoy this book. A warning: it is very deep and very heavy and I could imagine it being a little difficult to understand if you were not raised in the liturgical chu ...more
Kim
This book is not one you can casually read. I'm a fairly perceptive reader and to be honest, I'm not sure I fully grasp it. But there is nothing else like it, and it is an amazing book to work through.

I can see, though, that this book would have been an example of the occultism that Tolkien felt Williams was choosing to make himself vulnerable to -- reportedly one of the reasons for the 'split' between Lewis and Tolkien. The occultism is blatant and is clearly used for evil, but one does take aw
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Jeannie
I also read this book for a class at BYU. This one shook me up more than War in Heaven did. But there were so many amazing spiritual insights to be found as I suffered through yet another fearsome (I'm looking for a stronger word here) battle between good and evil. I remember that my copy was all marked up and had lots of notes in the margins. I lost it along with most of my paperback books when they were stored at a relative's home and termites did their work. Talk about a war between good and ...more
Wilsontherocker
I found this in the depths of my mom's bookcase. Her old copy from college, complete with underlining in purple ink.

This is truly weird stuff. I'd rate it alongside of Murakami's stranger stuff like Hard-Boiled Wonderland (and one could draw similarities between the two). All the more surprising that it's from 1945.

The story largely follows Lester as she reconciles with her husband and an old friend. However, when we meet Lester on the first page, she has just died. Throw in a cult-leader Necr
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Manuel Alfonseca
If Descent into Hell was Williams's Inferno, All Hallow's Eve is his Purgatorio. This is one of the strangest novels I have ever read, with two dead girls as the main characters, plus the modern Simon Magus, who has lived for two hundred years and performs magic, as their counterpoint. The novel can be compared to C.S.Lewis's The great divorce, which was written about the same time, but there is a big difference: all the characters in Lewis's book are dead (except the narrator, who is dreaming); ...more
Stephen
One could call it a ghost story. One could call it a supernatural thriller. One could place it in the genre of the "Left Behind" series or "The DaVinci Code" but for its intellectual and literary qualities. Williams' language is a bit dense and his investigation of each character's motives and thoughts slows the novel down, but it is filled with so many ideas that it is better to savour them than to gulp them and rush on to the next bit of action. Williams was one of t... (show more)
Helen Howell
I read this yesterday, in honor of the occasion. Highly worthwhile, as Williams always is, with several passages leaving you feeling a) vaguely stupid for not quite understanding him and b) inspired to read everything so that next time you read the book you might possibly get it. Because there will be a next time.

Also, I found his differentiation between love and compassion/kindness particularly fabulous. Perfect reading for All Hallow's Eve.
Linda Siadys
One of my favorite books of all time! Read over 25 years ago and have a copy on my shelf. Breaking down the battle of good versus evil to something as simple as the power of bring a glass of water to a wife...I don't know why this book didn't take off and stand toe-to-toe, if not above Tolkien's Lord of the Ring Series...perhaps he explored the dark side too closely to be palatable to the masses. Read this if you have a chance...
Chris Cangiano
Lester and her (yes, "Lester" is used as a woman's name here and no it didn't cease to be distracting to me) friend Evelyn die in a plane crash during the Blitz and awaken only to find themselves wandering through another silent, empty London. Meanwhile, back in the land of the living Richard, Lester's husband, his friend Jonathan and Jonathan's beloved Betty find themselves in a struggle with Simon the Clerk, who in the guise of a spiritual revivalist, is actually practicing Black Magic in an a ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Another great Charles Williams book. We start out walking through a foggy London night, with a recently killed woman...and from there it gets a little weird.

I like Charles Williams, and so far I believe this is my favorite of his books.

Recommended.
Tracy Walters
I was so excited to read this book.....I had read many rave reviews about it......it ended up being one of the worst books I have ever read. It was a very boring ghost story that was really hard to follow. I was pretty disappointed.
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Charles Walter Stansby Williams is probably best known, to those who have heard of him, as a leading member (albeit for a short time) of the Oxford literary group, the "Inklings", whose chief figures were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. He was, however, a figure of enormous interest in his own right: a prolific author of plays, fantasy novels (strikingly different in kind from those of his friends), ...more
More about Charles Williams...
Descent Into Hell War in Heaven The Place of the Lion The Greater Trumps Many Dimensions

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“Sir Joshua Reynolds, said Jonathan, "once alluded to 'common observation and a plain understanding' as the source of all art.” 2 likes
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