Stephen Gallup's Reviews > Pilgrim

Pilgrim by Timothy Findley
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's review
Jan 05, 2010

liked it
Read in January, 2010

There is certainly nothing wrong with the prose, aside from an almost unrelenting melancholy tone. The characters are all well developed and the ideas are fresh. But despite all that, reading to the end of this tome became a chore for me.

My problem with the book began with the fact that I opened it expecting to read the adventures of a character who had somehow lived through a great many centuries, but instead found myself mostly involved with psychiatrist Carl Jung during the development of his theory of the collective unconscious.

Pilgrim, who apparently has a history of going to sleep in one body and waking up in another, is more a cipher than a main character. He seldom speaks, and when he does he is often enraged. For him, the inability to die is a curse. Because of it, he has memories of innumerable lifetimes. Gradually, over the course of the book we learn that he has been a disabled shepherd who knew St Teresa, an artisan who worked on stained glass windows in Chartres, a young woman who was raped by Leonardo da Vinci and later sat as the model for his Mona Lisa, and so on. But these lives are only a sketchy background to the principal story, which focuses on Jung, who is Pilgrim’s shrink, and Jung's wife. The former is never an appealing character, and becomes much less so. The wife is much more sympathetically portrayed, but seems to belong in a different story. To further complicate matters, there are also various servants/attendants and an old friend of Pilgrim’s who may have shared his curse but does succeed in dying halfway through the story.

It's a very peculiar book. I'm giving it three stars because its creation was an ambitious undertaking, but in the end I simply did not particularly enjoy it.

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