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John The Revelator

3.25  ·  Rating Details ·  403 Ratings  ·  79 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 696)
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May 18, 2009 Anna rated it it was ok
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
Feb 07, 2011 Kathrina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
First, hear this:

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
Aug 06, 2014 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

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
May 24, 2011 Elaine rated it it was ok
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
Oct 07, 2009 Tim rated it it was ok
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
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,
Dec 28, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it
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
Bronwyn Mcloughlin
Jul 03, 2016 Bronwyn Mcloughlin rated it liked it
I raced through this - maybe looking for something to happen. Not much did, but there was something in it for all of that. I enjoyed the parts of the story establishing who his mother was and how they came to be where they were, of how they related to each other. I didn't understand Mrs Nagle, except as some kind of stereotype, or maybe another kind of misunderstood woman. I think I must have missed much of the imagery. The mad things he gets up to with his friend seem more like standard angsty ...more
Jan 14, 2016 Kris rated it liked it
An enjoyable book. Coming of age theme, but with a few twists. The best part was perhaps not the plot but the prose. Murphy's prose can be very good here, particularly in the first two thirds of the book, which is more fun and youthful in feel. He also does a wonderful job of giving you the feel of a person or place without actually offering much of a physical description - an interesting talent, but I found it a bit unnerving. Here the main character is so close to his mother, but we have no id ...more
Dec 02, 2014 Rebecka rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
D. Eric
Aug 16, 2009 D. Eric rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Jan 18, 2015 Bob H rated it really liked it
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
Carl Williams
Feb 06, 2010 Carl Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.
Jan 06, 2016 Judi rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I was a little sad to see so many negative reviews. I thought the relationships in this book were rich and varied, the tone dark and moody, and the prose was beautifully written and heart stirring. The description led me to believe the book was mainly about the relationship between the two friends, but on actual reading it was more involved in the relationship between John and his mother. I was ok with that though. I don't think he spelled everything out, we were left with questions and mysterie ...more
Feb 13, 2015 Soho_black rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, used-to-own
Up until now, I'd only ever heard of ''John the Revelator'' as a song. Judging from the several mentions of the song in the story and given that author Peter Murphy works in the music press, I suspect that's where the title of this novel came from as well. How much I enjoy the song depends on which version of it I hear, but with no such concerns with the book, I was able to enjoy it fully without worrying if someone had done a better version elsewhere that I was missing out on.

John Devine is a t
Aug 15, 2014 Matthew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: project-abcs
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
May 09, 2012 Susan Emmet rated it liked it
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
Dec 04, 2010 Anne rated it liked it
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
Alex V.
Feb 03, 2010 Alex V. rated it really liked it
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
Jan 27, 2010 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Author Annette Dunlea
Jun 24, 2009 Author Annette Dunlea rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
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
Nov 06, 2012 Thais rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 10, 2009 Dan rated it really liked it
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
Feb 10, 2016 Steve rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Stunning it is not. Some of the writing is quite beautiful but the story just never seems to go anywhere in particular — so I was completely unmotivated to keep reading and gave up on the book.
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
Jan 25, 2011 Patricia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
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, wasn't somethin ...more
Sep 28, 2010 Joni rated it liked it
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
Michael Spirer
Jun 15, 2009 Michael Spirer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Carol Oldham
Feb 03, 2016 Carol Oldham rated it liked it
Wonderfully written. To griimey and sexual for me.
May 26, 2016 Mebhe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un roman avec de bons moments mais aussi pas mal de longueurs. Dommage.
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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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