Marjan's Reviews > The Rose Of Paracelsus: On Secrets & Sacraments

The Rose Of Paracelsus by William Leonard Pickard
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it was amazing
bookshelves: novels-and-poetry, science, shamanism, zen

This book has been lurking through my Amazon recommendations for weeks but since reviews and information were scarce and the price was quite high, I was hesitant to give it a try until one good offer came around. And boy am I glad to have taken it.

It is one of the strangest and weirdest books I've ever read, it is also one of the most beautiful ones too. But not without problems, though. So let's dissect it, hopefully without giving away any spoilers.

1. Story
It promises to be somewhat like a detective novel and to some extent it is. Yet it is much more than that, or should I say - it is anything but typical. It goes beyond any classification, but if one is forced to give it a label, it could be rated as such.

2. Style
This is perhaps the strongest part of the book. It borders poetry, it is beautiful and a pleasure to read. The book comes with an advice to read it slowly and not without a good reason. So please, take time to read it. Enjoy it like a Japanese tea ceremony. Let it soak into your soul like a breath of fresh air... Just enjoy it.

3. Narrative arc
Here's where I begin to have some problems. It takes of like a rocket, drags you in and the first 100 or so pages are really an amazing experience. It promises an amazing journey and to some degree it does deliver it, but not as much as promised, because after that it becomes somewhat flat. Things are happening but they are not really pushing the story much forward. It just an seemingly endless addition of events, conversations, trips, locations that didn't intrigue nor satisfy me as a reader... The last 100-150 pages, when the story lands down, are brilliant again. In a way that is because the last part is liberated from two of the following sets of problems. (Also; the part about Alexander Shulgin is a beautiful homage, but how does it fit the whole story?)

4. Characters
There are two groups of people that repeatedly appear: "The Six" chemists that are at the centre of our attention and another five colleagues that appear in Harvard's chapters. In my mind (and I'd like to hear other opinions on the matter) all of them seem rather flat, blank or 'template characters', in effect quite hard to distinguish among each other. Especially the Six appear all the same, like one character in six incarnations.

5. References
The medium part of the book (some 400 pages), and especially the Harvard chapters are densely packed with all sorts of musical, artistic, political, literary, scientific, historical and other references. Harvard characters can't even cross the yard without invoking at least two episodes from school's famous history. Yes, it makes Harvard seem much more picturesque, alive and easier to envision for a reader, but please, not every stone has a story or is connected with something we should be informed about. It is too much and ti drags our attention away from the story and its characters. If one wants to know Harvard's history there are other sources to consult. The chapters that happen in various cities across the world are also packed with similar references too, but most of them are quite well known ones (tourist attractions, museums, paintings, public places...). This can be somewhat demanding on the reader, don't you think? It makes you feel extremely smart (if you know them) or extremely stupid (if you don't). But most importantly; it fills the story with unnecessary ballast... some references are OK, but I believe this is slightly too much. The focus should be on the over-arching mysteries, mystique, characters, story-plot... that is the true quality of this book.

The book ends with a note that this is still a beta version and that first edition is yet to be released. Which kinda makes sense. Throughout the book I kept thinking that although the book is really great, it would be SO MUCH BETTER with some proper editing which it now lacks. The parts are there, they only need to be connected into a more coherent sum which will transcend them individually. With that done, it has potential for a truly remarkable work.
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Reading Progress

January 22, 2017 – Started Reading
January 22, 2017 – Shelved
January 22, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
January 22, 2017 –
page 104
January 22, 2017 –
page 150
January 24, 2017 –
page 278
January 26, 2017 –
page 346
January 27, 2017 –
page 366
January 30, 2017 –
page 402
February 3, 2017 –
page 502
February 4, 2017 –
page 560
February 5, 2017 – Shelved as: novels-and-poetry
February 5, 2017 – Shelved as: science
February 5, 2017 – Shelved as: shamanism
February 5, 2017 – Shelved as: zen
February 5, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Richie Ryan I personally enjoyed the Harvard chapters, saw them as a relaxing break, for want of a term, from the international action. In particular the detail of the campus, historical insight, gave it life and spoke to a mind and soul that, while a world traveler, is still rooted and personally invested there. Try taking a break and reading some of the histories described. That enormous amount of detail relates also to the constant flow of art: I like view online the paintings described, listen to the music playing within the story. When it's all internalized, it's less overwhelming when described in text.

That need to seek out in other media art in the book, something I haven't ever had to do more than say a few times when reading a book, is something else that makes this so darn hard to categorize under a particular genre.

As for the Sasha Shulgin tribute, that especially spoke not only to where the author clearly sends his dedicated love, but for more practical purposes shows this book is more than a straight forward narrative, certainly. The tribute is more at home here, before the storm that awaits the narrator, than one might expect.

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