Julie Davis's Reviews > The Restless Flame: A Novel about Saint Augustine

The Restless Flame by Louis de Wohl
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Jun 03, 13

Read from June 01 to 02, 2013

Having dropped The Brothers Karamazov and realizing I will have to resort to Cliff Notes before my book club meets (there's a first time for everything), I am moving on to the next BIG BOOK they chose. The Confessions by St. Augustine.

Now I love St. Augustine. He is my first "saint pal" so to speak. However, I've tried several times to read The Confessions and always gotten bogged down in the early pages. (I must add this was not due to the book itself but to the fact that I got tired of Augustine going on and on about his tutor beating him when he was young.) As I was girding my mental loins for the prospect of throwing myself into the fray again, a Goodreads friend recommended one of Louis de Wohl's Christian historical fictions.

I tried de Wohl some time ago and found it very simple. Certainly nothing to match my beloved Samuel Shellabarger or Kenneth Roberts. Not even on the par of such Christian historical fiction as The Robe, Ben Hur, or Quo Vadis. (I now believe that perhaps I read one of his books written for younger readers.)

However, I checked out the beginning pages of the recommended book on my Kindle and found that it was more complex and interesting than my long ago sample about Helen and the cross, if I recall correctly. At any rate, in an attempt to get in the mood for The Confessions, I got The Restless Flame from the library and have been enjoying the way de Wohl brings Augustine, Monica, and others to life. This was enhanced by the fact that, having read Saints Behaving Badly I know that Augustine's steadfast friend, Alypius, was a real person who had to fight a serious addiction to blood sports. And so this makes it ring even more true.

The middle of the book was rather slow as it centered around Augustine's philosophy, teaching, and rhetoric of Manichaeism. But such was Augustine's life so I can't really complain about that. It was rather inspiring to see how seriously these young men took the search for Truth and philosophy. I really looked forward to the part where Augustine and Ambrose met. The author surprised me on that bit but seeing how Ambrose stood his ground against the emperor's mother was a treat. This book was thought provoking, stretched me mentally as I jumped with Alcypius behind Augustine from one philosophical concept to the next, and inspired me in its depiction of Monica and Augustine overall.

I've seen many people saying that de Wohl's books are really just for young adults. I'm not sure that is the case. True, this one isn't 600 pages with exhaustive details of Roman, Carthaginian, Milanese, and African living at the time. But that isn't always needed to get a good feel for a person. This one gave this fully adult reader just what was needed.
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06/01/2013 page 150
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by booklady (new)

booklady Again, I strongly encourage an audio version of Confessions if you can get your hands on one. Often the local diocesan library carry copies for loan. Now that I'm no longer employed full-time, I plan to visit mine every other month or so to see what's new and good.


Julie Davis Tried it before ... maybe I'll try it again. My problem was not with reading the book but with my annoyance with St. Augustine going on and on (and on and on) about being beaten by his tutor. I got it already. Move on. But he didn't move on, so I did. :-D

So the problem was me, not the book. :-)

What worked best with The Interior Castle was using a brand new translation and an old translation. I've got the new translation and should have the old Frank Sheed translation from the library soon. :-)

As for the annoyance, I am now prepped with his entire life story so I'll just put my head down and get through it.


Fonch Well i certainly i was interested in this novel about Saint Agustine, De Wohl seem worse that he is really. But he is a good novelist. It is difficult that i conect in a high percent with one novelist, but De Wohl has an important link with him. I totally agree with this view of the history. I still do not read the restless flame, but i have in my list, and more after i had read a lot of books of this author for example the last crusader, Golden Thread, Glorious Folly, The Spear perhaps do not obtain the same success with David of Jerusalem i expected more of this topic, especially because Samuel 1 and Samuel 2 are my favorites books, and De Wohl do not add nothing new. Respect Set All Fire about Saint Francis Xavier, in my opinion need more pages, i had been convenient that the author had written, however De Wohl rediscovered the greatness of 16th in my country spain, and offered to me a attractive portrait of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, fascinaiting, and i would say about the Spear an Glorious Folly excellent peplums, in the best tradition of Mika Waltari`s and Robert Grave`s novels i am a lover of the peplum. In my opinion De Wohl and Dobraczynski, especially the first are great novels, who should be appreciated between the best not only catholic writers,also in the category of the best writers.


Fonch Respect Saint Agustine i was desiring read the view of De Wohl especially the most polemic period with Donatist, the movie starred by Franco Nero dedicated litle space and his point of view was very superficial, besides also i would like see if De Wohl touch the topic of the discussion against Pelagius. I said because some catholic writers for example Paul Johnson is wrong in this theme, he considered that Pelagius is good and Saint Agustine is bad causing the ruin of the catholic church in North Africa. Johnson seem forgetting that Saint Agustine until the arrival of Saint Thomas Aquinas was the most important theology of Medieval Age. He christianized Platoo, meanwhile Saint Thomas Aquinas Christianized Aristotle. For this reason i want to read restless flame, and he put the thing in order. I am totally sure that Louis de Wohl will have done a good work. Thank you, and excuseme for being so heavy :-).


Julie Davis Fonch wrote: "Well i certainly i was interested in this novel about Saint Agustine, De Wohl seem worse that he is really. But he is a good novelist. It is difficult that i conect in a high percent with one novel..."

I can't put de Wohl in my category of best writers, but one must recall that I have just reread The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey whose writing is incomparable. And then there is Samuel Shellabarger who just can't be beat for putting together a wonderful novel (please notice I'm not talking about history here, but the quality of his writing and storytelling).

However, de Wohl surprised me with how well he captured the spirit of the times and that restless, piercing intelligence one must attribute to Augustine. I will definitely be reading more by him.


Fonch I understand your point of view Mrs Julie, i recently read one novel of Josephine Tey, this writer interested to me especially, because she was a member of Detection Club, a club of detection novelist, whose first president was my hero Chesnut, Chesty (Chesterton) i was interested in her novel the daugther of time, i am a defender of the innocence of the King Richard III in the case of the murder of the children of the tower, your nephew, although a friend of my friend Nancy Bilyeau, Alison Wir defend that Richard III is guilty. I like very much,the daugther, but in my opinion had two default, the critic to my guild the historians, besides, although Saint Thomas More has some defaults, it is not seem some critics to him. I believed that in the tudor age there was not freedom, and Thomas More could not write the truth, besides he was partidary of Tudor, but i am speaking of history, something that i promise that i would not do it. However Daughter of the time is a good novel i put four stars.But respect Tey, i do not believe she was a historical novelist, she is a detection writer who solve misteries in the past time is other thing, or other category in the historical novel, her strong point is the detection novel. I still to get Captain Castille, like i promised to you, we have a bet. I would like especially Robert Graves, Mika Waltari, Dumas, Scott,Henryk Sienkiewicz, Louis de Whol, Collen McCullough, it is possible that i do not like much of my writers :-).With all i recommend that you continue reading more novels of Louis de Wohl, respecting Saint Agustine i am interested in Saint Agustine a lot of time, equal like in the case of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, about all i want to answer this struggle i believe that i do not prepare to read the Civitate Dei, of the Confessions of Saint Agustine.I like of Louis de Wohl your historical orthodoxy.


Julie Davis Tey was definitely a mystery writer. Above that, she was a master of beautiful writing. I fear no translator can really do her prose justice.


message 8: by Fonch (last edited Jun 04, 2013 03:20PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Fonch The prose is excellent, i only criticize some aspect, that i disagree with the scottish writer. Louis de Wohl do not write Mystery writing, although Mika Waltari, yes. He created the Finish detective Palmu. I believe that we can not compare De Wohl and Josephine Tey, the fields are different, De Wohl write historical novel, and adventure novel, and Josephine Tey Detection Club and mystery novel,. She was member of Detection novel although he was not member of the original founder perhaps was the second, or third generation :-).


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