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The Blasphemer

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  1,332 ratings  ·  178 reviews
On its way to the Galapagos Islands, a light aircraft ditches into the sea. As the water floods through the cabin, zoologist Daniel Kennedy faces an impossible choice - should he save himself, or Nancy, the woman he loves?

In a parallel narrative, it is 1917 and Daniel's great grandfather Andrew is preparing to go over the top at Passchendaele. He, too, will have his
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published January 21st 2010 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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Richard Derus
Sep 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: On its way to the Galapagos Islands, a light aircraft ditches into the sea. As the water floods through the cabin, zoologist Daniel Kennedy faces an impossible choice - should he save himself, or Nancy, the woman he loves?

In a parallel narrative, it is 1917 and Daniel's great grandfather Andrew is preparing to go over the top at Passchendaele. He, too, will have his courage tested, and must live with the moral consequences of his actions.

Back in London,
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars! A dual narrative that doesn't feature two women as the main protagonists! Personally, that is not something I encounter too often as a reader. So when I saw this book in the bargain bin for $4 and read the description it was an easy sale! However, the very limited description didn't prepare me for the heavy topics which lied between its pages.

In the present day, we have Daniel Kennedy, a zoology professor and atheist from London, who travels with his long time partner, Nancy, to
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Angels, apes, soldiers, scientists, Mahler, love, relationships, militant atheists, terrorists – phew, I dread to think what Nigel Farndale fits in his man-bag, considering the amount of material he manages to fit into this, his Costa Award shortlisted novel. Thankfully, I am not a minimalist, definitely not in my home and most certainly not in my reading life, so I became quickly engrossed in The Blasphemer.

The novel has multiple layers, it’s a dual time-frame narrative with one story set in
Heather Clawson
Dec 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
The biggest problem I had with this book is that within the entire story there was never any defining moment. The book is supposedly about a professor who is an atheist, who goes down in a plane crash along with his long-time girlfriend and several other passengers. The professor volunteers to swim to the nearest island (some 14 miles away) to get help. While he's swimming, he sees a man, calmly treading water, always in front of him, urging him on. So now the obvious question arises: Was this a ...more
Carey Combe
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This veers from a three to a four star. There is so much going on this book, and it worries me that there were just too many 'big' themes - science versus religion, father. son relationships, cowardice versus bravery and that's just the tip of the iceberg. I gave it four as it had me gripped and I loved the gross figure of Weatherby and how Machiavellian he was - but ultimately I think he tried to put too much in and never really came to any satisfying moral conclusion. Overall a good, gripping ...more
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The tricky thing with book descriptions is that they tend to give too much away, not as much as movie trailers, but often too much for my liking anyway, but then if you don’t read them, you won’t know what you’re getting into. The thing to do is to read just enough about the book, which usually works or sometimes ends up being a complete surprise. In this instance it was Galapagos Islands that attracted my attention, I’m in the island hopping mood for my summer armchair travels, but the plot ...more
David Hebblethwaite
Mar 03, 2010 rated it liked it
There’s a lot going on in Nigel Farndale’s new novel, which is good because it keeps the pages turning; but I feel that The Blasphemer ultimately tries to hold more than it can contain.

In the present day, zoologist (and atheist) Daniel Kennedy takes his partner Nancy on a surprise trip to the Galápagos Islands — but, before they get there, their light aircraft crash-lands at sea.At first, instinct leads Daniel to push past Nancy on his way out of the stricken plane, before returning to help her
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have just finished reading The Blasphemer. Not for quite some time has a book touched me so much, its characters and their stories lodged in my mind. I was literally glued to the book for the last half of it; I felt as though from chapter 25 onwards, I was on a rollercoaster, the pace was increasing and I didn't want it to stop, eager to learn the fate of Andrew, Adilah, Daniel, Nancy, Wetherby, Philip and Hamdi, and just how much Andrew and Adilah's story intertwined with those in the present ...more
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Given how obsessed I am with the First World War, this would seem to be a no-brainer. And indeed the plot line involving flashbacks to the grandfather's experience at Passendaele is the strongest material. But the writer just takes on far too much and loses my precious tolerance and suspension of disbelief as he over-lards the pudding with one unlikely twist after another, symbolic effect after symbolic effect. It's tiresome and it all gets a little preposterous after a while, with villains and ...more
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
There is a LOT going on in this book. Religion vs science, bravery vs cowardice, plane crash, WWI, father and son relationships, middle eastern prejudice, amber alert, redemption, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria! Just when I thought I knew what this book was about (plane crash that tests a couple's relationship paralleled with a WWI storyline) a new character and subplot would be introduced - the middle eastern teacher, car bombs, the counselor, the father, the nasty vice-provost. ...more
Jan 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
Let's get the comparisons over with first. The scenes from the Passchendaele? Birdsong, but even more hard hitting - and the passion amidst it has the same highly charged eroticism - with a touch of Private Peaceful. The modern story? Very reminiscent style-wise of Danny Scheinmann's Random Acts of Heroic Love for me - too reminiscent maybe, remembering that was also a R+J choice a few years ago.

The modern story really is a total hotchpotch - inter-academic back-stabbing, Islamic terrorism, a
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
While I thoroughly enjoyed The Blasphemer, I found myself forced to contact the author about one third of the way through when I read a sentence that made my blood boil. In a discussion between two characters, Farndale has one character claim that there exists in Ohio a Creation Museum in which young children are pictured playing with carnivorous dinosaurs. As we in Ohio all know, that infamous, ridiculous museum is not located in Ohio but was constructed south of the Ohio River in Kentucky. We ...more
Alison Moore
Jun 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Unlike some of my fellow readers, I loved the intricacy of the plot. The book is such a page-turner that I was glad of the necessity to go back and check out references to incidents or references I'd missed first time round and tie everything together pleasingly.

But two of the characters raised questions for me: Wetherby and Philip, Daniel's father.

I'd like to have had more information about what might have led up to or explained Wetherby's behaviour, which seemed gratuitously destructive.

Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, I was looking forward to this book after loving reading The Road Between Us, but I was disappointed. There was just too much happening in this book and a couple of the characters actually upset me, especially the treachery and the callousness. I liked the First World War part the most but I didn’t enjoy the constant changing to another era, just when something was happening. Overall I’d say it was OK, but I’m pleased to have finished reading it.
Scott Parson
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: discuss-it
This was a thought provoking book, introducing a lot of interesting ideas, which I thought worked quite well on the whole.
Some of the characters were a bit too close to stereotypes, but there were a lot of characters and some were more rounded than others. Sometimes Wetherby behaved in an unlikely way. I could accept him being petty and spiteful towards his colleagues, but not being quite so vindictive towards Daniel.
I liked the parallel narratives, that worked well.
The debates about the
Aug 05, 2010 rated it liked it
I reviewed this for Publishers Weekly; here's my unedited review:

In this elegantly written meditation on morality (among many other topics), protagonist Daniel Kennedy, a biologist specializing in worms, is convinced of that the universe is godless—until the plane carrying him and his partner Nancy to the Galapagos Islands crashes in the ocean. In his desperate scramble to escape the sinking plane, he pushes Nancy out of the way, though returns to rescue her. The primary plot is about how Daniel
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016
Present day: A couple goes down in a plane crash on their way to the Galapagos Islands. A split-second reaction in the face of death has far-reaching repercussions on both their lives.

1917: A young soldier faces the horror of the trenches at Passchendaele. The consequences of his actions on his first day of battle will come back to haunt him.

"The Blasphemer" is an ambitious novel, tackling lots of big themes including religion, morality, cowardice, love, terrorism, persecution, self-sacrifice,
Roberto Macias
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The reviews call the book thought provoking. I consider that a serious understatement, as it has kept me up at nights, not only reading but also reflecting about the book in itself. It goes through a wide range of human emotions and their expressions, cowardice, love, envy, bravery, fear, faith or lack of it. It develops those feelings into characters that are threedimensional, with whom you can empathize whether you agree or not with their actions.

Most importantly though, it made me look deep
With it's parallel narratives, World War I trench and battle descriptions, and long discussions on faith and religion between characters, "The Blasphemer" is not an easy read. While I enjoyed the novel, the contemporary storyline was not what I thought it would be. A vividly described plane crash leads to a miles long swim toward the Galápagos Islands, which I thought meant an adventure survival story. Instead the plot is in the aftermath, as atheist Daniel Kennedy returns to London and copes ...more
May 12, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've struggled with articulating why I didn't like this book ... different story - asking some big questions that always seem to be interesting ... nice style - easy to read ... I really enjoyed the parts with the character Phillip - he was understated and real and quite sweet in the end ... what's not to like right?... hmm ... I think maybe there was too much going on ... it felt sensational but in a "oh c'mon, really?" kinda way ... and after all of that activity and hype there was no ...more
Anne Barwell
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
4.5. While it took me a while to get into the story, once I was about 2/3rds through I couldn't put it down. It has so many levels to it, and is much more than just the two parallel storylines - one in present day, the other in WW1. It asks a lot of questions about human nature and belief, and doesn't answer all of them - but I like that and I find myself still trying to figure things out weeks after I've finished reading it. Those sort of books tend to stay with me for longer, rather than those ...more
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
So well plotted and well written. Good on love, loss, parenthood and war. But most importantly, a non-linear puzzle plot with a good dose of the supernatural. Good breathless page-turning fun. Really enjoyed more than almost anything in ages. Only not a five because some of the conversations on atheism, science and faith were a bit heavy handed and too much tell in a book that is otherwise very much good on showing and feeling. The wonderful bitter irony of how Hamdi is treated in contemporary ...more
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
An exceptionally well written meditation on courage, faith, and science. A stridently atheist biologist has a near-death experience while on a pilgrimage to that Mecca of natural science, the Galapagos Islands. The aftermath of that experience leaves him wrestling with his confident non-belief while trying to save his marriage and his career. Interwoven with this present day account is the vivid and heartbreaking narrative of his great-grandfather's experiences in the first world war. The ...more
Harry Kuperberg
Jul 29, 2010 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I found this uneven. I was more interested in the modern story rather than the WW1 sections. Farandole had obviously done a lot of research for the book and I got the feeling he was determined to use it all.
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
excellent read. lots of parallel stories, each very interesting. not a "cant put down" but definitely a "must finish to see what happens".
Sarah Parker
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well, this was a surprise. Considering the fact that I’ve never heard of this book or this author before, I’m actually quite impressed. There is more than a whiff of Birdsong about this, but in a good way. The story flows nicely without trying too hard but it still managed to make you feel all of the pain and grief of WWI.

This is not a story I would have gone for if I wasn’t interested in WWI myself. And sometimes, the plot doesn’t always live up to the blurb. But in this case it more than
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think this book had a lot of potential, but the author's execution was a bit lacking. The story's narration goes back in forth in time and is told from varying points of view - there was supposed to be an interesting thread connecting all the narratives and different time periods, but it came across in a more confusing and disjointed manner. There is a lot of substance in this book, and it's hard to know what pieces are important and which are simply filler. There's not a lot that moves the ...more
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
An absorbing story juxtaposing Daniel Kennedy’s survival and subsequent difficulties after a compellingly described plane crash near the Galapagos Islands (where he initially abandons the mother of his child and was guided by what might have been a vision to safety) with his deserter great-grandfather’s WWI experiences, also maybe led to safety by a guardian angel, who fathers a child with a Frenchwoman before capture and execution. A few jarring notes (such as an over-the-top colleague) but a ...more
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Nigel Farndale was born in Ripon, North Yorkshire, in 1964. He is the author of six books, including The Blasphemer (shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award) and Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce (a biography shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize). His latest novel is The Road Between Us.

As a journalist he has interviewed a host of celebrities
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