Donovan's Reviews > The Exorcist

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
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Feb 29, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: horror
Read in February, 1983

This is classic horror that will mess with most people's minds. I found that it will leave you in a mix of optimistic and pessimistic moods. I found elements of the book quite disturbing and I am not sure if that is because the book contains some basis in real-life events - namely an exorcism that occurred in the 1940's. This version in the 70's edition but I have since heard there is a 40th anniversary edition with extra content that Blatty is very proud of.
This is not recommended for anyone with a fear of things that go bump in the night.

Plot ***Spoilers***
An elderly Jesuit priest named Father Lankester Merrin is leading an archaeological dig in northern Iraq and is studying ancient relics. Following the discovery of a small statue of the demon Pazuzu (an actual ancient Assyrian demigod) and a modern-day St. Joseph medal curiously juxtaposed together at the site, a series of omens alerts him to a pending confrontation with a powerful evil, which he has battled before in an exorcism in Africa. Meanwhile, in Georgetown, a young girl named Regan MacNeil living with her famous mother, actress Chris MacNeil, becomes inexplicably ill. After a gradual series of poltergeist-like disturbances, she undergoes disturbing psychological and physical changes, appearing to become "possessed" by a demonic spirit.

After several unsuccessful psychiatric and medical treatments, Regan's mother turns to a local Jesuit priest. Father Damien Karras, who is currently going through a crisis of faith coupled with the loss of his mother, agrees to see Regan as a psychiatrist, but initially resists the notion that it is an actual demonic possession. After a few meetings with the child, now completely inhabited by a diabolical personality, he turns to the local bishop for permission to perform an exorcism on the child.

The bishop with whom he consults does not believe Karras is qualified to perform the rites, and appoints the experienced Merrin, recently returned to the States, to perform the exorcism; although he does allow the doubt-ridden Karras to assist. The lengthy exorcism tests the priests both physically and spiritually. After the death of Merrin, who had previously suffered cardiac arrhythmia, the task ultimately falls upon Father Karras. When he demands that the demonic spirit inhabit him instead of the innocent Regan, the demon seizes the opportunity to possess the priest, thus Karras surrenders his own life in exchange for Regan's.
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