The Blasphemer
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The Blasphemer

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  725 ratings  ·  125 reviews
On its way to the Galapagos Islands, a light aircraft ditches into the sea. As the water floods through the cabin, zoologist Daniel Kennedy faces an impossible choice - should he save himself, or Nancy, the woman he loves?

In a parallel narrative, it is 1917 and Daniel's great grandfather Andrew is preparing to go over the top at Passchendaele. He, too, will have his courag...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published January 21st 2010 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Heather
The biggest problem I had with this book is that within the entire story there was never any defining moment. The book is supposedly about a professor who is an atheist, who goes down in a plane crash along with his long-time girlfriend and several other passengers. The professor volunteers to swim to the nearest island (some 14 miles away) to get help. While he's swimming, he sees a man, calmly treading water, always in front of him, urging him on. So now the obvious question arises: Was this a...more
Carey Combe
This veers from a three to a four star. There is so much going on this book, and it worries me that there were just too many 'big' themes - science versus religion, father. son relationships, cowardice versus bravery and that's just the tip of the iceberg. I gave it four as it had me gripped and I loved the gross figure of Weatherby and how Machiavellian he was - but ultimately I think he tried to put too much in and never really came to any satisfying moral conclusion. Overall a good, gripping...more
Teresa
Angels, apes, soldiers, scientists, Mahler, love, relationships, militant atheists, terrorists – phew, I dread to think what Nigel Farndale fits in his man-bag, considering the amount of material he manages to fit into this, his Costa Award shortlisted novel. Thankfully, I am not a minimalist, definitely not in my home and most certainly not in my reading life, so I became quickly engrossed in The Blasphemer.

The novel has multiple layers, it’s a dual time-frame narrative with one story set in wa...more
Karen
While I thoroughly enjoyed The Blasphemer, I found myself forced to contact the author about one third of the way through when I read a sentence that made my blood boil. In a discussion between two characters, Farndale has one character claim that there exists in Ohio a Creation Museum in which young children are pictured playing with carnivorous dinosaurs. As we in Ohio all know, that infamous, ridiculous museum is not located in Ohio but was constructed south of the Ohio River in Kentucky. We...more
Alison Moore
Unlike some of my fellow readers, I loved the intricacy of the plot. The book is such a page-turner that I was glad of the necessity to go back and check out references to incidents or references I'd missed first time round and tie everything together pleasingly.

But two of the characters raised questions for me: Wetherby and Philip, Daniel's father.

I'd like to have had more information about what might have led up to or explained Wetherby's behaviour, which seemed gratuitously destructive.

And...more
Anna
I have just finished reading The Blasphemer. Not for quite some time has a book touched me so much, its characters and their stories lodged in my mind. I was literally glued to the book for the last half of it; I felt as though from chapter 25 onwards, I was on a rollercoaster, the pace was increasing and I didn't want it to stop, eager to learn the fate of Andrew, Adilah, Daniel, Nancy, Wetherby, Philip and Hamdi, and just how much Andrew and Adilah's story intertwined with those in the present...more
Jennifer
There is a LOT going on in this book. Religion vs science, bravery vs cowardice, plane crash, WWI, father and son relationships, middle eastern prejudice, amber alert, redemption, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria! Just when I thought I knew what this book was about (plane crash that tests a couple's relationship paralleled with a WWI storyline) a new character and subplot would be introduced - the middle eastern teacher, car bombs, the counselor, the father, the nasty vice-provost....more
Scott
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Roberto Macias
The reviews call the book thought provoking. I consider that a serious understatement, as it has kept me up at nights, not only reading but also reflecting about the book in itself. It goes through a wide range of human emotions and their expressions, cowardice, love, envy, bravery, fear, faith or lack of it. It develops those feelings into characters that are threedimensional, with whom you can empathize whether you agree or not with their actions.

Most importantly though, it made me look deep i...more
Annie
Let's get the comparisons over with first. The scenes from the Passchendaele? Birdsong, but even more hard hitting - and the passion amidst it has the same highly charged eroticism - with a touch of Private Peaceful. The modern story? Very reminiscent style-wise of Danny Scheinmann's Random Acts of Heroic Love for me - too reminiscent maybe, remembering that was also a R+J choice a few years ago.

The modern story really is a total hotchpotch - inter-academic back-stabbing, Islamic terrorism, a l...more
David Hebblethwaite
There’s a lot going on in Nigel Farndale’s new novel, which is good because it keeps the pages turning; but I feel that The Blasphemer ultimately tries to hold more than it can contain.

In the present day, zoologist (and atheist) Daniel Kennedy takes his partner Nancy on a surprise trip to the Galápagos Islands — but, before they get there, their light aircraft crash-lands at sea.At first, instinct leads Daniel to push past Nancy on his way out of the stricken plane, before returning to help her...more
Tim
I reviewed this for Publishers Weekly; here's my unedited review:

In this elegantly written meditation on morality (among many other topics), protagonist Daniel Kennedy, a biologist specializing in worms, is convinced of that the universe is godless—until the plane carrying him and his partner Nancy to the Galapagos Islands crashes in the ocean. In his desperate scramble to escape the sinking plane, he pushes Nancy out of the way, though returns to rescue her. The primary plot is about how Daniel...more
Sam
I've struggled with articulating why I didn't like this book ... different story - asking some big questions that always seem to be interesting ... nice style - easy to read ... I really enjoyed the parts with the character Phillip - he was understated and real and quite sweet in the end ... what's not to like right?... hmm ... I think maybe there was too much going on ... it felt sensational but in a "oh c'mon, really?" kinda way ... and after all of that activity and hype there was no resoluti...more
Ellen
Given how obsessed I am with the First World War, this would seem to be a no-brainer. And indeed the plot line involving flashbacks to the grandfather's experience at Passendaele is the strongest material. But the writer just takes on far too much and loses my precious tolerance and suspension of disbelief as he over-lards the pudding with one unlikely twist after another, symbolic effect after symbolic effect. It's tiresome and it all gets a little preposterous after a while, with villains and...more
Dara
An exceptionally well written meditation on courage, faith, and science. A stridently atheist biologist has a near-death experience while on a pilgrimage to that Mecca of natural science, the Galapagos Islands. The aftermath of that experience leaves him wrestling with his confident non-belief while trying to save his marriage and his career. Interwoven with this present day account is the vivid and heartbreaking narrative of his great-grandfather's experiences in the first world war. The passag...more
Megan Jones
To start with this novel is tedious and drags on a bit to the point where I thought it was going to be a boring, dull read throughout but after 50 pages or so it certainly picks up. Throughout the novel you meet characters from the past and the present and both plots and characters are perfectly written that you find yourself living their story with them. The alternation between the present and flash backs to the past give the novel something a little extra that makes it all the more enjoyable....more
Val
This was a thought provoking book, introducing a lot of interesting ideas, which I thought worked quite well on the whole.
Some of the characters were a bit too close to stereotypes, but there were a lot of characters and some were more rounded than others. Sometimes Wetherby behaved in an unlikely way. I could accept him being petty and spiteful towards his colleagues, but not being quite so vindictive towards Daniel.
I liked the parallel narratives, that worked well.
The debates about the natu...more
Harry Kuperberg
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Corene
With it's parallel narratives, World War I trench and battle descriptions, and long discussions on faith and religion between characters, "The Blasphemer" is not an easy read. While I enjoyed the novel, the contemporary storyline was not what I thought it would be. A vividly described plane crash leads to a miles long swim toward the Galápagos Islands, which I thought meant an adventure survival story. Instead the plot is in the aftermath, as atheist Daniel Kennedy returns to London and copes wi...more
Safiya Florence
I picked up the book in a charity shop as a holiday read and wasn't expecting much, or rather was expecting the usual plot of the evil Muslim terrorist causing the innocent white English hero's accident and so, chapter after chapter, I was kept on my guard. I was pleasantly surprised after a while, however, to see that the author didn't fall in that trap: there is no evil Muslim character, on the contrary, he ends up a victim of the current paranoia, among other things. However I was saddened by...more
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
Daniel Kennedy is a zoologist who is taking his partner Nancy, the mother of his daughter, on a surprise trip to the Galapagos Islands to propose to her. On the way there, the light aircraft they are traveling in crashes into the sea. Daniel is faced with an huge, sudden choice, and the action he initially chooses will come to impact on his life deeply. He escapes and swims for help, believing he sees a figure guiding him to safety just when he was almost resigned to death.

Running alongside thi...more
Ian Young
A lot is happening in The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale, probably too much for my taste – a few less plot lines and a little more development of the key themes would have made for a better book. Nonetheless, this is an interesting novel with an ambitious approach which makes for a good holiday read. There are two main story lines which are interwoven. The dominant story focuses on academic Zoologist Daniel Kennedy, a prominent atheist with a television series and a developing public profile who i...more
Lorna Hanlon
This is our reading group book for the month of March, and I wasn't initially enthused by the cover or the first chapter. It felt a bit chick-litty for my taste (despite being written by a man). However, that didn't last long - as I read on, I was hooked. This is a beautifully constructed and written novel with some very fine touches and linked themes, and quite remarkable for a first work. It has all the elements for which I award my highest praise - great, believable characters, well-rounded a...more
Alan Hughes
This is an excellent novel and can be enjoyed at many levels. It is a well written family saga and also a suspenseful thriller. It covers war, terrorism, love, religion, science, honour and redemption in its broad sweep from 1914 to today.
It is as well writted as 'Atonement' with which it shares similar concerns. The characters are well drawn, believeable and likeable. (And dislikable in the case of the villians). The contemporary passages on marital relations and modern life are as well hand
...more
Kiwiflora
My goodness, there is SO much going on in this book, it's a minor miracle it is all packaged up and concluded in 492 pages. Is there a God or is there not? Was the earth created in seven days or not? Are there angels or not? And that is just for starters. But having said that, these three questions form the crux of the novel.

Daniel Kennedy is an atheist. He is also an associate professor of zoology at Trinity College in London, and has recently written and fronted a natural history television pr...more
Serjeant Wildgoose
I agree with the reviewer who suggests that there is a little too much crammed in to this book. Farndale (The Sunday Telegraph journalist) has pulled the old Celebrity Masterchef trick of bunging in far too many ingredients and consequently soured the stew.

As with others, I was left unsatisfied by the moral and religious explorations of the book. Perhaps that flavour was drowned by the sugar that was heaped in by the fistful.

I am afraid the graphic trench scenes did not ring true, but rather ban...more
Ian
Set primarily in the present day, and based around four male generations of the same family, this novel is at its best when it goes back to the horror of being in the trenches of WW1 where it is somewhat reminiscent of Birdsong.

However it is one of those books where the author has had a good idea and then tried to be far too clever and weave just too many sub-plots into one story. The result is that, possibly because the plotlines are far too busy,the characters in the present day are simply to...more
Donovan Richards
The Lifeboat

The lifeboat example, a classical Philosophy 101 illustration, depicts a scenario in which you reside safely in a lifeboat surrounded by a sea of drowning passengers. While the hope of you – the lone lifeboat resident ­– is to save as many as possible, only one more person can safely board. Amongst the drowning treads your spouse, a brilliant physicist, and a poor child. Who should you save?

Daniel Kennedy – a zoologist, Dawkinsian atheist, and protagonist of The Blasphemer – would fi...more
Josephine
A man climbs over his girlfriend in the aftermath of a plane crash potentially leaving her to die. The same man's great Grandfather goes over the top of the trenches on the first day of Passchendale, is assumed dead but is really a deserter. The question here, is if we were in either of these men's shoes could we say we would react differently; are we really in a position to judge?
In amongst these two moral dilemmas that run parallel throughout the 492 pages of this novel we also have a nine yea...more
Robert
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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