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Ultimate Prizes (Starbridge #3)

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  1,055 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Book three of Susan Howatch's extraordinary sequence of novels, Ultimate Prizes is a brilliantly readable story--a riveting exploration of the interplay of past and present in the human psyche and of theor sin and salvation in the human soul.
Published (first published 1989)
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"Ultimate Prizes" offers the reader a rich and fascinating view into the life of a Church of England archdeacon (Neville Aysgarth), who, at the story's outset, appears to have it all. A position of high authority with the prospect of future advancement, a loving, supportive wife and 5 children. But, during the course of a dinner party given by his Bishop, Dr. Ottershaw, in the late spring of 1942, Aysgarth makes the acquaintance of a vivacious young woman (Diana Dorothea Tallent, otherwise known ...more
The third book in the Starbridge, Ultimate Prizes is for me, the most moving and profound book in the entire series. It's the one that I think sort of lays out what Susan Howatch was trying to accomplish.

Narrated by Neville Aysgarth, an ambitious archdeacon it is the story of his lifetime quest for the "ultimate prizes." He is by far the most fascinating character of the series for me. Just when I think I have him all nicely figured out he throws me a huge curve ball. I love the way Howatch desc
Oct 22, 2015 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The third book in the Starbridge series. So far each book has been narrated by a clergyman who goes off the rails and has to be nursed back to spiritual health by someone outside his ecclesiastical comfort zone. In Glittering Images the Neo-Orthodox scholar is under the care of the mystic. In Glamorous Powers the Mystic is restored by the modernist. In Ultimate Prizes a broadchurchman is put back together by Anglo-Catholics. No plot spoilers here. Like the other novels, the protagonist has iss ...more
Elena Sorensen
Pretty good but not up to the first two Starbridge books. I wanted to punch Dido in the head. Also now I have to read about religious Liberalism and the problem of evil...reading Howatch always gives me a lot of homework to do!
Oct 22, 2016 Carole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great! Now to read the other 5! Shame am reading out of order but I think they more or less stand alone.
Lissa Notreallywolf
One review of Howatch's books is probably enough, or at least a comment on the Starbridge series that I have read. They won't everyone's cup of tea because they are set in England and everybody is white and pretty much upper class, the plots revolve around Anglican clergy.
If Howatch doesn't have a doctorate in divinity someone should give her an honorary one.
I read these years ago, and I recognized one in ten names of the theologians her character discuss I read them while I was taking a distan
Sep 07, 2012 Beccalarge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not expect to like, let alone love this book. It sat on my shelf for more than a year, and although I picked it up several times, I could never get past the back cover. It did not feel like a book I wanted to read (an archdeacon struggling with thanks), but I was wrong.

The book takes place in England during the 1940's, and from the very start I was drawn in by the history of the Church of England. I have aways been fascinated by the evolution of the Evangelical church over C
Feb 04, 2015 ^ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anglican christians
This time it’s 1945, and it’s the turn of Archdeacon Aysgarth to enter the limelight and be plunged into the irrationality of valuing a perfect life (family and career) whilst utterly endangering what he professes to so cherish, by his pursuit of and tormented satisfaction in an adulterous relationship.

I had picked up the first two books of this series out of curiosity. This, third, volume I deliberately hunted out on the shelves of my local bookshop; basing the timing of my search on the public
Feb 13, 2008 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is book 3 of Susan Howatch's Starbridge sequence.

As are the others, this book is a powerful exploration of the character of an ambitious but flawed clergyman (Charles Aysworth). Set in tween wars england, the book starts with Charles realising he has "almost" committed adultery, and then traces the events that lead up this event and the events leading on from it. The book ends up in a fairly predicable Fall / Crash / Redemption sections.

Susan Howatch looks at the way Charles's theology inte
Adam Shields
Jul 09, 2015 Adam Shields rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book Review: Ultimate Prizes by Susan Howatch (Church of England #3) - This whole series is well worth reading. But is not traditional Christian Fiction. It is more about the way sin seperates us from God and how often we stray from what God wants for us. But how God can work through us anyway. Ultimate Prizes is about an Arch Deacon that gets the Ultimate Prize he is looking for, but finds it wasn't want he really wanted.

The full review is on my blog at

Aug 16, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to finish this one (we went on vacation and I had the large print from the library and didn't want to haul it to GA) and I think they are much better read quickly.
Same interesting elements as the other books-sex, lies, past issues, church and world history, and spirituality. I think this one had a lot more in depth theology plotting Modernism against I guess what we would call today-Fundamentalism, but she called Crisis theology.
I really liked how this book brought out info
Jun 26, 2008 Suzanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third book in the Starbridge series. Neville Aysgarth has a seemingly successful life as a young priest and father of five children. Yet with all of Howatch's books, there is much that lurks under the surface of this glittering veneer of perfection. Neville is a particularly fascinating character because he is so universally disliked by the other characters in the series. Even as he narrates his descent into the abyss, the reader wonders how much he can be trusted. It's a truly compe ...more
Misha Crews
Oct 30, 2009 Misha Crews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with the other Starbridge novels that I've read, Ultimate Prizes is a fascinating look at a powerful man driven to the brink of self-destruction by guilty secrets. I found this one to be most interesting because it immediately precedes Scandalous Risks, a book which I fell in love with several years ago. Now that I've read the first three novels in the Starbridge series, I look forward to re-reading Scandalous Risks with a fuller understanding of the dark, twisted history behind it. This was ...more
Feb 18, 2008 CLM rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Neville Aysgarth is a young and ambitious Archdeacon of Starbridge during the Second World War. After being widowed and remarried, he too (like everyone else in this series) undergoes something of a breakdown but ultimately is rescued by Jonathan Darrow, a recurring character.

It is hard to explain why this series is so compelling but I don't think I am alone in finding it addictive. For those who are English and Anglican, I would guess there is probably the added pleasure of guessing who some of
Third in the Starbridge series about Church of England ministers in the middle of the 20th century.

This book is written from the perspective of Neville, an Archdeacon, whose habit of 'ringing down the curtain' on all unpleasantness has led to enormous amounts of repression, and a near nervous breakdown.

Believable, if dramatic, with interesting digressions into the theological debates of the times, and attitudes to the wars. Definitely recommended.
Jun 19, 2015 Kristina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is set in 1940s England. Neville is an archdeacon who deals with life by 'ringing down the curtain' on anything unpleasant, including his entire childhood and a row he had with his mother as an adult. His life gets to a point where that's no longer working, and he has to face up to why he acts like he does, and what really happened all those years ago.
The author is rather insightful about human delusions and God's mercy. This is an excellent, thought-provoking book.
Lisa Webber
Jun 10, 2015 Lisa Webber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this book. Having been passed it in a bundle of second hand books I had ignored it for ages and wasn't at all tempted to pick it up. Having started it though I polished it off within a few days and ordered an earlier book from the series straight off. I was fascinated by the main protagonist Neville Aysgarth and his struggles, even when he was being quite horrible and had a good cry at his final crisis in Brighton.
Jan 17, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anglophilia
Re-read the book in January 2013. I was bored in the first section because I find the character of Dido Tallent incredibly boring. But the rest of the book, as Norman Neville Stephen Aysgarth goes through his history and the relationships with mom/dad/ and Uncle Willoughby is quite a good rehash of the Fordites and Darrow helping him through the crisis.

Was going to go down to 3 stars due to beginning, but now going to stick with 4.
Feb 08, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The third book is Susan Howatch's series of psychological novels about priests in the Church of England, this book focuses on a modernist priest going through a marital crisis at the end of World War II. Although this book is as well-written as the others in the series, I found the main character to be less likable, so the book was slightly less successful overall.
Very compelling, very interesting, and very real. It wasn't buttered up, and since it was done in first person, it felt easier to sympathise with the main character. There was a lot of religion talk, but it also used historical facts. It also sounds how easy it is for a single person to be able to make such a large impact on people's lives
Each book follows the same general group of clergymen from the Church of England. This one is filled with psychology as well as spiritual aspects. Getting to know these characters one at a time, and then seeing how they interact from book to book is great. I had read this series when it was being written, so am enjoying the re-reading so many years later.
Beth Dickey
Jan 04, 2015 Beth Dickey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's wonderful and terrible to be hooked on a series like this. I'm On book 3 of six. Each book really could be read independently, but as (so far) each book is told from a different first-person narrative, you get a lot of insight on the characters. I the reader know things that the narrator in each story DOES NOT KNOW. Howatch is a first class story weaver.
Having read these out of order, I'd been mystified as to why Aysgarth was in one novel as Neville with a perfect wife, and in another as Stephen with a peculiar one - was it even the same. person? This filled in those blanks vet satisfactorily.
Dec 10, 2008 Christy is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic yet again. I highly recommend this series-although the first book might take a little while to get hooked the others move pretty quickly and are definitely worth it. Howatch does a great job combining church life and counselling into a fantastic story.
These books are quite different from anything I've read before. They are saturated with Englishness- class, romance, aspiration, war, cathedral and country, but with a truly unique vein of theology and church practice throughout.
Ray Estabrook
Dec 20, 2012 Ray Estabrook rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although the character of Neville Aysgarth is not attractive - he really is quite a bastard, his quest to find himself in his tangled family past is gripping and makes him sympathetic. "Once you have mastered your past , then you are set free to respond to the will of God."
Tam's Literary Adventures
I found the main character difficult to like and stuck with the book because I didn't want to miss nuances in future books in this series. I tired of "ringing down the curtain" and "chasing prizes" as catch phrases. I hope the characters in the next book are more likable.
Aug 11, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
My favorite series...I reread every year. Neville Aysgarth, however, is my least favorite of the characters from Starbridge. However, he adds a depth to the series and a deeper understanding of the Church of England in the 20th Century.
Sep 08, 2008 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mod-lit
This series is built around an English cathedral community. Each book focuses on one of the major players. All of the players are present in all of the books, so the reader sees the same events from differing perspectives. Engrossing. IMO, Howatch's best work.
Jun 23, 2009 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book 3 in the Starbridge series. I was not expecting to like this book at all but actually found it way more intriguing than book 2 (which revolved around my favorite character in the series).
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Susan Howatch (b. 1940) is a British novelist who has penned bestselling mysteries, family sagas, and other novels. Howatch was born in Surrey, England. She began writing as a teen and published her first book when she moved to the United States in 1964. Howatch found global success first with her five sagas and then with her novels about the Church of England in the twentieth century. She has now ...more
More about Susan Howatch...

Other Books in the Series

Starbridge (6 books)
  • Glittering Images (Starbridge, #1)
  • Glamorous Powers (Starbridge, #2)
  • Scandalous Risks
  • Mystical Paths (Starbridge, #5)
  • Absolute Truths (Starbridge, #6)

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“Life's not about the day when you win the prizes - it's about all the days in between. p 255” 3 likes
“My first recommendation...will be that you should have a holiday. You are worn out by all your unhappiness.” 2 likes
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