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Glittering Images

(Starbridge #1)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,962 ratings  ·  308 reviews
Beneath the smooth surface of an Episcopal palace lurks the salacious breath of scandal. Charles Ashworth is sent to untangle the web of self-delusion and corruption only to become embroiled in a strange menage a trois that threatens to expose the secrets of his own past! In Glittering Images tension and drama combine in a compelling novel of people in high places, of desp ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published July 22nd 1996 by Fontana (first published 1987)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  2,962 ratings  ·  308 reviews

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Dec 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthew by: Andrew Hillman
First started reading this book about a year ago when my friend sent it to me and recommended I read it. I got through about a quarter of the book and set it aside. I couldn't figure out why my friend had sent me a trashy, historical romance.

A month or so ago he brought the book back and said I needed to read it. I figured that since he was telling me a second time I must have missed something the first time around. For that first part of the book I was still wondering what the heck was going on
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: romance
This is not high literature. Howatch's Church of England series is really like romance novels for Anglicans. It's not that they lack sex-- there's plenty, mostly angsty, as you'd expect for a set of Anglo-Catholic classics. Rather, the narrative place of sex in a romance novel is taken by spiritual direction. You don't have fantasy lovers; you have psychic monks who can tell you exactly what's wrong with your relationship with God and your family, and what you need to do to fix it. Anyone who's ...more
Jan 08, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Howatch wrote this long series of novels about clergy in the Church of England. They are heavy on theology and psychology - so I loved them, but you have to like that sort of thing. If you do, dive in. They're wonderful. Some are a bit kinky, too, particularly the final three that she wrote some years later than the original six. I found them all really interesting.
Laura Rittenhouse
Mar 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
After 2 months, I've finally finished this book and have to say it wasn't great. I guess it was easy enough to read, but the situations played out a little too smoothly. The characters referred more than once to Freud and I couldn't help but think Ms Howatch had taken a psych 101 course and had turned one or two classic case studies into characters. The scenes were too pat - scripted is what I want to say but since this is a novel, I guess it is by definition scripted.

Also, the whole book, or 99
My edition of this book is so old it's not even pictured on any of those featured here on goodreads. I'm not sure when I first picked up a copy of this book or first read it. This is a booklady equivalent of junk reading. I first encountered dear sue when I lived in the UK in the early 80s. Fell in love with her technique of telling stories from first one perspective and then switching camera angles to a different character. It taught me the valuable lesson that while many may despise/like a per ...more
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading 'Glittering Images' when it was first published and enjoying it so I decided to re-read the whole Starbridge series of which this is the first book. Charles Ashworth is sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury to, in effect, spy on Alex Jardine, the Bishop of Starbridge. Jardine is the Archbishop's outspoken enemy over a proposed Bill which is going through Parliament and which later became the Matrimonial Causes Act, and widened the grounds for divorce.

The Archbishop fears that J
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anglican christians
On finishing this novel I thanked God that my life is, by comparison, so uncomplicated. This is a taut spiritual and psychological ecclesiastical thriller, of impressive angst. I lapped it up; this was a book that I resented putting down; instead delighting in new words (to me) such as ‘apostate’; so (sadly) useful in the Church of England nowadays, and being charmed by the thought of a door opened by “a butler “who looked like a character from a Trollope novel,” (no, not Joanna) which seemed ju ...more
This was an odd book. It stars out with a prurient investigation into an Anglican Bishop's marriage, by an Anglican cleric. It then veers into a repentance narrative about the cleric wherein he interacts with an Anglican monk, who has a bit of the sight about him. Then, it veers, ever so slightly, to the Exorcist.
I liked parts, skimmed parts, and was perplexed by parts.
Jessica Christine
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating historical novel.
Jul 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Serious readers, Readers interested in the Chrisitan faith, Readers with Ecclesiastical interest
Recommended to Jo by: No one

I read this book/series many years ago. Distinct memories are hazy, but having read other reviews, the general story comes back. I do remember being intrigued by learning about the ecclesiastical structure of the Church of England. The practice of having a spiritual guide for their pastors was intriguing. The spiritual faith of the main characters and their journeys are what kept me reading throughout the series.
The device of the author to advance the story through characters that appear in d
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Matthew Johnstone, Heidi Waterhouse, Adam Flynn
Recommended to Brenda by: Magnus Palm
This was a tremendously satisfying book. It started light and Wodehousy, but quickly got deep and complex. There were a few moments of delighted realization as I, the reader, got to know what was going on. The book spoke to the kind of reality I live in, or wish I did.

I think my very favorite part of this book was its treatment of Christianity, Christians and the church. It is rare to find fiction that has a nuanced, compassionate view of any of these. But I found the book to be theologically co
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I have given 5 stars to a very few (maybe 5 or 6) books. I remembered reading this book several years ago and enjoying it, so I reread it this week. I don't know that I have ever enjoyed and admired an author's writing style, vocabulary, and careful story -plotting as much as I admire Ms Howatch's. I copied 5 full word-processing pages full of narrative and dialog that was either so inspiring in content or so clever in wording that I wanted to retain it for further consideration. I love to read ...more
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Leah by: my mom
Holy Cow! What a story Susan Howatch weaves. There's depth and twist after twist. I'm very glad that this is just the first book to a huge series. Unfortunately, with a baby, it's harder to find time to read an in depth book like this. These books are no quick read. They are, however, completely worth your time. ...more
Sheri Byrd
Nov 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
The first of the Church of England series that was, for me, life changing. This one begins in SH's former Gothic style, but her style develops considerably through the series to heart-stopping, page-turning psycho-spiritual thriller. The Wonder Worker series is a spin off of this series, and even more exciting, but not for the squeamish.
Bev Taylor
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
charles ashworth works as a dean for the archbishop of canterbury

he is asked to work as an undercover spy to see if the bishop of jardine has any skeletons in his closet that could upset the church. these 2 men r not friends as they came to disagreement after jardine spoke in the house of lords and he also seems to have a very strange menage a trois in residence

love, tension and drama - desperate longings and the failure to resist them. charles soon finds out that this is more a personal uncove
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was delightfully scandalous for 1930's England. The book centers on Charles Ashworth, a doctor of divinity who is commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to investigate the Bishop of Starbridge's private and potentially scandal-filled life. The writing itself is quite beautiful, kind of like a thick brownie fresh from the oven (but with a few nuts in it). Although the book is set in some beautiful bits of England (Cambridge is one of my favorite places on earth), there aren't any ...more
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
I am struggling with out to rate this. 2 stars seems like too little, but I just cannot give this book 3 stars, which both surprises and saddens me. This is the second Susan Howatch book I have read, although it is actually the first in her Starbridge series. I read "Ultimate Prizes" (the third in series...although they can be read out of order) and LOVED it. In fact, after finishing I could not wait to read the others in this series and planned to read them all! I was especially excited for "Gl ...more
Jul 07, 2008 rated it liked it
If you like one Starbridge book, you'll like all of them. If you can't read the first one, just give it up. I loved them. Before I read these books I didn't even realize that there were high churchy Anglicans and low churchy ones. Or that English churchmen are for the most part very sex-ually hung up and neurotic. If people like the characters in these books actually exist, I have never met them, but I HOPE they exist. The stiffer-than-stiff upper lip and the guilt and inability to talk about th ...more
Apr 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this series of books a few years ago and really liked them. They are about fictional clergy members of the Anglican Church--doesn't sound that fascinating, but I couldn't put them down! I really liked that the characters were so real--despite their obvious sins and failings, they still had strong faith. Beware--these books do contain sex and scandal, they are not for the faint of heart, but I still recommend them if you aren't bothered by such stuff.
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book and all the others in this series. I loved watching the characters slowly succumb to their personal interests and then watch them fix their life. I i still remember the joy I felt when I discovered the last book of the series, which I didn't even know existed. Run, don't walk to the library, book store or digital device to read these.
Katherine Pershey
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wild, weird, and wonderful.
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: go-to-author
I have just realized that Howatch is now one of my favorite authors. Her character-driven novels, set in various historical eras, draw me in with intrigue, depth, and attention to detail. No matter the setting, the novels speak t0 the human condition. "Glittering Images" refers to our outer self, the one we want the world to see, the one we think is our best self in the sense of successful, attractive, godly, etc. Whichever traits we value, that's how we project ourselves. But at what cost to ou ...more
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you’ve ever wondered what a tawdry soap opera would be like if it were set in the 1930s amid the politics and theological debates of the Church of England and everyone involved was acutely aware of their spiritual shortcomings and need for repentance, this is the book for you.
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh how we lie to ourselves.
Beckie Hinze
interesting plot but slow in parts

Really interesting plot. Slow in a few parts - but not so slow that I don't want to read the next one.
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
I first read a Susan Howatch novel years ago and found it fascinating and read a couple more. I picked this one up at the recommendation of Jacqueline Winspear, one of my current favorite authors. She was Barnes & Noble mystery writer of the month and had a list of recommendations. A couple of them I had already read, so I grabbed some others with relish.

At first I wasn't too enthralled. It seemed a psychological story with a lot of Jungian underpinnings, pleasantly written, but a little banal.
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enormous amount of dramatic action somehow manages to take place in this novel full of background information and conversation. I was hooked from the beginning, however, by Howatch's ability to lay the groundwork for future events and revelations. I simply could not wait to discover the truth behind all of those glittering images. I was especially impressed by her handling of the Darrow-Ashworth counseling sessions and her belief in the power of God always being stronger than the power of the ...more
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book as a gift/recommendation from a friend, and really enjoyed it. Susan Howatch's keen sense of the environment in the Church of England in the early 20th century, and the backdrop of evolving social views of marriage and divorce growing into tension with those of the Church, neatly frames the stories of the central characters. The spiritual and psychological complexity of each key figure in the book is beautifully rendered, and offers much material upon which to reflect furthe ...more
Jul 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommended to CLM by: SLM
Such a bizarre and improbable plot (although I think someone told me it is based on a real incident), not to mention totally unlikeable characters, but I was hooked anyway. In this series about the Church of England, Howatch flirts with the occult as she has her clergymen characters (and the women who tempt them!) try to deal with their stresses through non traditional religious means.

What an interesting departure from the two books I had read many years ago, Penmarric and Cashelmara, both outst
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Susan Howatch (b. 1940) is a British novelist who has penned bestselling mysteries, family sagas, and other novels. Howatch was born in Surrey, England. She began writing as a teen and published her first book when she moved to the United States in 1964. Howatch found global success first with her five sagas and then with her novels about the Church of England in the twentieth century. She has now ...more

Other books in the series

Starbridge (6 books)
  • Glamorous Powers (Starbridge, #2)
  • Ultimate Prizes (Starbridge, #3)
  • Scandalous Risks
  • Mystical Paths (Starbridge, #5)
  • Absolute Truths (Starbridge, #6)

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