Beccalarge's Reviews > Ultimate Prizes

Ultimate Prizes by Susan Howatch
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U 50x66
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Sep 07, 12

really liked it
Read in August, 2012

I did not expect to like, let alone love this book. It sat on my shelf for more than a year, and although I picked it up several times, I could never get past the back cover. It did not feel like a book I wanted to read (an archdeacon struggling with adultery...no thanks), but I was wrong.

The book takes place in England during the 1940's, and from the very start I was drawn in by the history of the Church of England. I have aways been fascinated by the evolution of the Evangelical church over Catholicism in England, not to mention the the way the clergyman are ranked, rewarded, and essentially made into pillars of social standing. I found the history in the novel to be informative and very eye opening.

The novel is basically about a young archdeacon, Neville Aysgarth, and his struggle to gain every "ultimate prize" in life....the perfect wife, perfect family, and perfect future in the church. Just when he seems to have it all he finds himself struggling with temptation and sin, and in true human form, attempts to solve everything on his own, in his own "perfect" way. It is only when he is at the brink of ruining his career that he seeks help from another clergyman, who in turn sends him to a monk. It is here that Neville's true struggle begins. His faith believes that sin does not need to be confessed to any other than God, and the thought of having to open his heart to a monk is almost more than he can handle.

This is where the book truly had me hooked. The insights into sin, repentance, forgiveness and the atonement were remarkable. The monk finally gets Neville to open up his past, to bring forward every im-perfect moment. To repent instead of hide. And ultimately to forgive himself.

I found the entire book to be fascinating and insightful. There were passages I had to read and then read again for their simple truths and clear insights. I really enjoyed this book...which I believe is number three in a series of six (although they can be read independently of each other). I will definitely read another.
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