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3.61  ·  Rating details ·  129 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
At a time when Americans remain skeptical about religion but still thirst for spiritual fulfillment, Niall Williams's extraordinary and masterful new novel reveals a universally appealing message of hope and love. In the years following the death of Jesus Christ, John the Apostle, now a frail, blind old man, lives in forced exile on the desolate island of Patmos with a sma ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published February 5th 2008)
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Dale Harcombe
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Without knowing anything about this novel except that I had liked other books by this author and that I liked the cover, I brought this book home from the library. If I had known it was about the apostle John, I may not have brought it home. But it was a day of a child screaming in the library and I had to get out, so I never read the back cover blurb as I normally would do. Before you get the wrong idea, it is not that I am against religious or historical novels. John is in fact my favourite go ...more
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most intense and engaging books that I have ever read. I have recommended it to all the people I know whom might be able to appreciate it. In terms of historical fiction it is amongst the top. Length of read is not long. Wished it was much longer, but somehow it was just right all the same. Williams writing style in this book (first I have read) is something akin to lyrical prose. Truly brings out the dichotomy between faith and doubt; two sides of the same coin I believe alth ...more
Carol Cabbiness
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John is a fictional account of the Apostle John in his later years after his 'revelation.' The book begins with his exile on the isle of Patmos with his gathering of disciples.

This book is captivating and yet beckons the reader to slow down to the pace of life of exile. The author uniquely captures the imagery and descriptions of the island, the disciples, and the meditative life of John. The story line includes a disciple who begins an alternate faction and the apostles eventually release from
Jul 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tough read because it is written so starkly and because it is so relentlessly depressing - but I stuck with it, partly because I was so relentlessly depressed. In the end, I felt rewarded by its sheer power. I can understand why someone would give up on it, but for me its one of those books that stays with you (read it two years ago) when so many others just blend together. It's like watching a bunch of romantic comedies and then seeing "Schindler's List".
L. Scott
Feb 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful imagining of John's life, character, and witness. Lyrical and dramatic.
Aug 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
An intriguing, unusual book. About 2/3 of the novel is set on the island of Patmos, with John as an exceedingly old man with a small community of disciples in exile long after he has recorded his Revelation; the last third takes place in Ephesus, as their exile is ended and they try to renew their evangelizing efforts in that hotbed of new religions. The likely fluidity of the Christian faith in those early years is effectively portrayed, as is the fervent expectation that Christ's Second Coming ...more
Chris Sittler
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last of the Apostles that followed Christ, John (almost 100) is blind and his body ravaged by old age. Him and his apostles have been exiled by the Romans to the island of Patmos for the last two years. During this time a schism erupts between his loyal followers and a group that renounces Jesus as being the Son of God and John as anything but an old man. As sickness and storms plague the island, John gets word that the exile has been lifted and they can leave the island. John must decide to ...more
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, fiction, history
This story starts nearly at the end of John the Evangelist's life as he is exiled on Patmos with a small cadre of followers, all waiting for Jesus' return. John was promised that Jesus would come back before John's death. As the community has aged, younger members start wondering how much longer John can possibly live...and then wonder if he is mis-remembering...and then thinking that it must be because of [some unnamed] sin that Jesus hasn't returned...and then that Jesus may not return after a ...more
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John: A Novel (by Niall Williams, Bloomsbury, 2008) is about the last years of John the Apostle, exiled on the Island of Patmos and then, after the persecution by the Emperor Domitian, at Ephesus where he died aged a hundred, or thereabouts. I’d been given the book by a friend with a warning: I can’t think of who else I could recommend this to. Why me, I asked. Well you’re a Catholic, she replied, as though that self evidently explained all. Yeeees, I said – that always helps. Used to be, by the ...more
Mar 16, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: explorers of the soul
most of this book takes place on the island of patmos, and as such there is abundant imagery regarding weather and the sea. as someone who's spent a lot of time by the ocean, i enjoyed many of williams' images.

naturally williams also dedicates a vast amount of the book to one's inner dialogue of faith. it was nice to read a book, finally, where such multifaceted battles of the heart and mind rang true. each of the characters primarily only have one viewpoint, and i would argue that most believe
Interesting that I noted on the last Williams book I read, The Fall of Light, that he had seemed to adopt an almost Biblical tone.

He takes it one step further here, imagining his way into the life of John the Gospel. As an unbeliever I approached it as the level of mere story, and as that it worked. The characters came to life, the setting and actions and plot all woven together by Williams deliciously descriptive semi-archaic prose.

Not an easy page-turner, but an ultimately satisfying study of
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story of the beloved apostle, now "the Ancient" as he leaves Patmos. The author notes, "This is a novel, not history, not biography...." This is a book of dread and melancholy braided with faith filled expectancy. The writing is so precise, I struggled to name it.... until I found another review describing as "starkly written." Can heartily recommend a worthy read, both as story and as craft...
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book about what life might have been like for John the Apostle. A little hard to get through at times, but the book was written with as many facts as could be verified. I'm glad I read to the end, I got a good idea of the way of life in those times, and how difficult life was for followers of Jesus Christ.
S.M. Muse
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an amazing journey through faith.
Jason Riehl
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very well written.
I'm looking forward to reading other works by Niall Williams.
Feb 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
some amazingly beautiful passages.
I kept changing my mind about this book throughout the whole read- between, "This is disturbing" and "This is enlightening."
Jan 10, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
heh? It was a book after reading, I have no idea what I read. It is not the topis, I usually enjoy biblical stories, it was the writing style - horrific.
May 14, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I just could not get into it, even after a few chapters.
Sep 26, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave it 3 stars for being well-framed. It's not the clearest read ever...wait that's kinda like me
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Jul 14, 2008
rated it it was ok
Mar 07, 2011
Christine Breen
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Mar 08, 2014
Fiona Cook
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Mar 28, 2016
rated it it was ok
Jun 07, 2008
Penny Mathie
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Jun 06, 2016
Nathan Hoel
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Feb 04, 2015
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Feb 27, 2014
Mary Ann
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Apr 14, 2015
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Niall Williams studied English and French Literature at University College Dublin and graduated with a MA in Modern American Literature. He moved to New York in 1980 where he married Christine Breen. His first job in New York was opening boxes of books in Fox and Sutherland's Bookshop in Mount Kisco. He later worked as a copywriter for Avon Books in New York City before leaving America with Chris ...more
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“The nobleman fell to his knees. 'Sir, come down to my son ere he die.'
His old face. His love for his son.
None of us spoke, the old man kneeling so.
I watched your eyes. The pity that pooled, this love of the father.
'Go thy way; thy son lives,' you said.
And he raised his face to you, and we could see that he believed.”
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