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John The Revelator

3.26 of 5 stars 3.26  ·  rating details  ·  341 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Stuck in a small town, John Devine yearns for change. When James Corboy - a self-styled Rimbaudian boy wonder - arrives in town, John's life suddenly seems to be full of possibility. But together their nose for trouble may be their undoing and, as John hides from the reality of his mum's worsening health, he is soon faced with a dilemma.
Paperback, 254 pages
Published February 1st 2009 by Faber & Faber (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 603)
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Anna
Standards in music journalism ain't what they used to be. Peter Murphy is a music journalist. I probably wouldn't have read this if I'd come across all the promotional wank the publisher had to go with it before finding the book. Faux-gritty peatbog goth trailer (why the f* does a book need a music video?) with Murphy breathily reading a spooky bit over the sound of crows.

Pur-lease. And he had the tree on the cover tattooed on himself somewhere. Why didn't Nabokov think of that? What a demonstr
...more
Kathrina
First, hear this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_veQR...

So, that's a great song, and is in no way reflective of the theme, atmosphere, or context of this book. But I love Blind Willie's raspy vocals, and the way the woman trills the "-or" of revelator.
If there was no God, what would the Irish write about? Maybe in Murphy's world there is no God, just churches and altars and communion wafers and old priests and devoted mothers and old, withered beliefs, and what is left at the end of the tunne
...more
Elaine
May 24, 2011 Elaine rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
There were periods of good writing that shows promise, but the overall impression was of a creative writing class -- stuff being experimented with that didn't really hang together. Things didn't make sense -- the age of John's mother, who at first seems a very young mother, run away from home to follow a band and have a baby, but by the time John is 16 is described as "not a young woman." Her illness -- mental? physical? - remains opaque. Perhaps the greatest offense to narrative logic is John's ...more
Mark

A cover blurb by Colm Toibin was enough to get me to read this first novel, and by and large, I enjoyed it. I only kept it out of four-star territory because I think the story was meant to be a deeply profound exploration of the protagonist's relationship with his mother, and that didn't come through for me. I also was put off by Murphy's insistence on including dream excerpts that were really much more amateurish than the rest of the novel.

The strong points were his evocation of a small southea
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Shullamuth Ballinger
Well for starters, in Murphy's John the Revelator, coming of age is not a matter of experience with sex, drugs, or even Rock and Roll. It isn't propelled by betrayal, madness, or corruption.

That's not to say that the protagonist, John Devine, doesn't experience all of those things-- he does in some spectacular and horrifyingly human ways. However, they don't transform him so much as push him further and further into himself.


For John, a world caught between the crows that fly too high to help,
...more
D. Eric
Although I enjoyed parts of this book, it was more for the relationship of the title character with his mother than any other parts of the story. I could never really tell where this story was going. John's relationship with his friend is odd, to say the least, but never really resolves itself. Likewise, the dream sequences, though interesting, lacked motivation.

Overall I never understood where John was coming from nor where he was ultimately heading.
Bob H
I came to this novel expecting another Irish-gritty coming-of-age story, semi-autobiographical, perhaps. What I found instead was a surreal, mystic narrative in a stark Irish countryside that is more Gothic than Celtic, more J.D. Salinger than Frank McCourt, and even that does not find a convenient niche to describe it.

The narrator is a youth who is in a greater state of disaffection and alienation than you'd expect, with an obsession with worms and with dark dreams laden with crows. His meeting
...more
Carl Williams
A modern Irish adolescent coming of age story. Some _Catcher in the Rye_, add a healthy dose of _A Separate Peace_, flavor with _The Outsiders_, stir with a positive mother-son relationship......not a shabby read at all.
Matthew
Cool writing, some passages (especially the italicized dreams) are really breathtaking, the way the words sound together. But two pretty big gripes with the thing: first, the setting is totally protean and ambiguous, one chapter sounding like it's from the 60's and the next from the late 2000's. It's disconcerting. And second, there's very little emotional resonance from any of the events. Things happen, and there's no real follow-up, no introspection, no real relevance. I guess real life is lik ...more
Susan Emmet
John the Revelator...the song, the book. John of Patmos. John of Jesus and the Book of Revelation.
I began reading Peter Murphy's first novel and expected to be engaged, even amazed. And sometimes I was. I think I stumbled often because I "saw" more symbolism and myth and Biblical "stuff" than maybe was intended. Maybe not.
Crows...the protagonist John Devine's dream self and symbol of war and recovery to Native-Americans, Celts and pagans. Worms...again, persistent and powerful facts and symbols
...more
Anne
John The Revelator is Peter Murphy's first novel and has been nominated for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
A short novel at just over 250 pages, it is narrated by John, a fifteen year old boy who lives with his Mother in rural Ireland. Lily, John's mother spends her time alternating between smoking, quoting from the Bible and telling John stories. John himself is a strange, somewhat mixed up boy, with an obsession with worms and who suffers from nightmares.
There is something
...more
Alex V.
This book didn't really hook me until its second half, where the burden of being Irish finally went from a trickle to a river, eventually eroding the lives depicted therein. The way it speaks to our inability to prepare for the inevitable is sweet and believable. Things generally went down hill the way gravity ordains, and I appreciate that in a narrative. The dialogue was intimate without forcing the reader to don the character as a costume.

That said, I had a hard time placing this book in tim
...more
Rebecka
A little more than 24 hours has gone by since I finished this book, and it's still with me. Beautiful, raw, and poignant. I loved its language and atmosphere more than the actual story I think, but I felt so sucked into it that I didn't lay it down once, I read it from cover to cover (and missed out on a good night's sleep but no matter). Recommended to anyone who is a sucker for nice descriptive novels and who also think that the raw, rugged and merciless parts of life can just be so romantic s ...more
Beth
Beginning in the Dickensonian style of "I am born," John the Revelator
traces a young man's coming of age in southeastern Ireland. Young
John's mother, a maid, is in poor health and deeply religious, and
John, perhaps because of her storytelling, is plagued by nightmares (a
crow figures heavily in his dreams). He falls into a friendship with a
boy named Jamey who is bright by unmotivated and introduces him to
smoking, drinking, and women. Jamey is a writer, and the narrative is
frequently broken up by
...more
Author Annette Dunlea
John The Revelator by Peter Murphy (Book Review)
John The Revelator is a great debut novel by Peter Murphy. It is published by Faber and Faber and its ISBN is 0571240208. This is a quirky coming of age tale. It is well written in evocative and beautiful prose. The story is not original but it is an interesting account of the pain and agony of being an illegitimate child in old rural Ireland and the boy’s desire to escape. It touches other subjects like the power struggle between mother and son, r
...more
Tim
This poignant coming of age tale is mostly about the atmosphere. Some things happen, and the main character (a teenager growing up in modern day Ireland) weathers them all, but his reaction to these things is so understated that it's hard, as a reader, to empathize with him. My favorite character was actually the mother–she seemed to have a deep wisdom that her son had not yet developed.

Though the book is relatively short, I had a hard time getting through it. Its similar to some French movies
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Thais
Non so bene cosa dire su questo romanzo. Mi ha ricordato un po' le atmosfere cupe di Nick Cave (sia delle canzoni sia dei romanzi), è una storia di formazione sofferta e contorta. John cresce con la madre, ha molti incubi e un solo amico, Jamey. Con lui creerà un rapporto molto stretto, ma non privo di tradimenti e sensi di colpa. Jamey gli si offre completamente, gli fa leggere i suoi racconti, si confida, gli scrive lettere quando è lontano, lo perdona sempre. John, per quanto ci tenga al suo ...more
Belle Wood
The debut novel by the ex-singer of Bauhaus, and is as literary and artistic as you would expect. The mispent youth of an outsider growing up in a small Irish village, it's at times dark and heavy.
Dan
This was recommended to me by Bookbrowse, and so far, it's a page-turner, a very fast and satisfying read.
I read this book quickly and it was a page-turner. I call this type of book "a cracker", because it was in between two rough books for the book club, namely "The Shadow of the wind" and "In the Time of Cholera". A cracker in a wine tasting is the substance that cleans the palette between tasting two different wine samples. When it comes to reading, this book gave ne a neutral stance in time
...more
Heather
This book was a nice change of pace, at least for me. I don't read much on teenagers, and certainly not those in rural, present-day Ireland.

For the most part, I'd say Murphy does a great job balancing the poetic with the base, even combining the two at times. The only detriment, to my mind, was that sometimes it went on too long, or was too frequent. So periodically I got a little bored. The protagonist, John, was quite compelling as a narrator, and the other main characters are pretty vivid, i
...more
Patricia
This was a slightly difficult review for me to make, as ultimately my rating for this book really came down to my personal taste. There were laudable aspects to this book that I appreciated, such as the relationships between John and his mother and also the changes within John himself, etc. I also appreciated many passages here and much of the writing overall, though I did find some of the dreams a little confusing. But while I do think this book has strong merit, personally...it wasn't somethin ...more
Chris
This one didn't really work as a "novel" for me, as I didn't really feel the overall arc of the story. However, Murphy has a wonderful voice and one that I read with pleasure. Even if the book had gone on for another 100 pages, I would've followed his voice right along.

Really, his voice carried this book for me. While I liked what was going on--as he definitely kept things lively and his plotting worked well--it just didn't fully click for me as a traditional story. Who knows, though, maybe that
...more
Joni
This book was very confusing at times. I was sometimes not sure if plot points were dreams or actual happenings. The ending seemed to just...end.

I had hoped this would be a delightful coming of age story set in Ireland, but it was crude and vulgar at times. The plot veered off in a direction I did not expect and was not sure it would be redeemed.

I am still trying to digest the meaning of the book (if there truly was one). I do not think I should have to do "further study" to learn what the plot
...more
Michael Spirer
Great coming-of-age novel. Somewhat common in the loner boy with no friends etc. way, but well-written and moving. John is the bastard son of a cleaning woman growing up in Ireland in an undisclosed time, probably in the not-too-distant past. With few friends, the novel centers first and throughout around his relationship with his mother and later on around a mildly homoerotic friendship that is sadly ripped apart just when John needs a friend the most. I finished this book with tears running do ...more
Riley Edwards
An achingly beautiful book. Written from the perspective of the title character, John, it tells a dark, heady tale of growing up and coming to understand himself and, increasingly, his relationship with his single mother and those around him. Written in a style that treads on the right side of a thin line between sublimely heady and overly descriptive and fantastical, its a book that stayed with me even after putting it down.

Not one I'd recommend for the easily offended, though!
Charlaralotte
Compelling, atmospherically dark & dank tale of Irish boy's life in small, close-minded town. Felt some parts of narrative could have been expanded upon: relationship between John & James, while suitably mysterious, could have been fleshed out. Love the characters of the mother, meddling neighbor, handyman. Wished brief interjections of poetic crow imagery had led to something fuller. On whole though, an interesting world to enter into.
Kate
Sloppy first novel promises what it can't deliver. Though the tropes and themes in this novel are intelligent, they are ultimately under developed. Murphy produced a leviathan of a beginning and middle that was too big to be brought to fruition by the end of this book.

If you're looking for yet another story about a bored bogger raised by a tough-love Irish mom, this is for you. Otherwise don't believe the hype--this book is highly overrated.
Maya Panika
What an extraordinary book! The tale of a boy growing up, only child of an unmarried mother in rural Ireland; a boy with few friends and an obsession with worms and death who sees visions of crows.

Ostensibly a coming of age tale with few, if any twists - the writing is what lifts it above the norm; Peter Murphy’s prose is compelling and exciting and a constant surprise.

Very hard to put down and very highly recommended.
Michael D
Solid debut novel which is not particularly unique subject-wise (rural coming-of-age story told from the point of view of a troubled teenage boy) but what marks this out is the sinister Gothic feel and the quality of writing by Murphy who has a great ear for word combinations that sing together and talent for telling a story very compellingly. I look forward to seeing what he will do in the future.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads data base.

Peter Murphy's first novel John the Revelator was nominated for the 2011 IMPAC literary award, shortlisted for the 2009 Costa Book Awards and the Kerry Group Fiction prize. His second novel, Shall We Gather at the River, is published as The River and Enoch O’Reilly in the US.

Peter’s journalism has been published
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More about Peter Murphy...
Shall We Gather at the River Removal THE CONTROLLERS A Matter for the Jury (Ben Schroeder) A Matter for the Jury

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