Bryn Hammond's Reviews > The Religion

The Religion by Tim Willocks
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really liked it
bookshelves: imagined-fiction

From the sublime to the ridiculous. But I figure the sublime earns four stars, without taint from ridiculous content. You don't get sublime often, do you?

Has a big dose of swashbuckler. When the swashbuckler’s in the cockpit this isn’t ‘real-feel’ historical, because Mattias Tannhauser has been everywhere, can do everything. I was comfortable with that, I’ve swashbuckled of old, the secret is don’t try too hard to believe.

It’s more realistic when it comes to the war, and most of the book is war, and that’s where he lifts to the sublime. He goes for broke on the writing. But if ever there’s a time to overwrite... other reviewers say that. How else to paint for us mad hell on earth, as is his intention, other than by his wild similes? Like this, like that – as he stretches for a phantasmagorical similar. Besides, if he didn’t, he’d only have his human pudding to talk about, and that would wear. I took the graphic depiction in my stride, never grossed out, did not suspect him of exploitation – and I can’t tell you why, when I not infrequently complain about cheap violence in histfic. Don’t know you can possibly get more violent than this one, but it’s done right – for me. As we went along I began to often think of WWI, I was transported back to my ‘WWI Lit’ class, perhaps the atmosphere or the intention was like that protest literature. On the other hand he doesn’t scrimp on the allures of war, the gallantry, the glory, the strange exhilarations: at an earlier stage I admired the book for that, for not being a 21st century anti-war tract. This novel, yes, has a stab at tackling religious war, I came to feel, as we saw sides and further sides to the subject. I liked La Valette, the head Knight of St John, even though he’s a crazed old loon: the knights of the Baptist were magnificent, the Turks were magnificent, I knew I’d fight for either cause, and Tannhauser, who tries not to be swept away, watches the glamour, of war, heroism, religion: both the glamours and the horrors absolutely presented in this book.

Then there are the bad bits. Badder than I can politely say is the romance. Think of the worst of romances. With the indulgent fantasy of a guy. And hopelessly, hopelessly sexist. That’s a pity, because when Carla is away from Mattias she has a story of her own, in the hospital – these are the Hospitallers, sworn to ‘serve the poor’, who call the sick ‘our lords’ – a story that moved me deeply. The other woman, Amparo, seemed unusual at first – until she hooked up with Mattias, then she sank without a trace for the rest of the book.

We have a sublime scene on the horror and the pity of war. Next we have a scene torn from a trashy romance. What a drop. I felt like the Moslems they hanged one a day, dropped from the castle walls. The strongest section, I thought, was the ‘Maltese Iliad’; the final drama was too melodrama.
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Reading Progress

May 2, 2013 – Started Reading
May 2, 2013 – Shelved
May 2, 2013 –
page 21
2.68% "His kid sister's head is split apart in front of him but he has the presence of mind to finish off the forging of his knife. I've trawled the reviews; I see this is intensively violent (has been so far). The English use is strange, but whether I'm in the lyrical camp or the ill-written camp I'll see... I won't judge it early, but I might hate it -- or it might be one of those you enjoy in spite of yourself."
May 7, 2013 –
page 70
8.93% "Ignore the prologue, then. It's been a romp since."
May 9, 2013 –
page 186
23.72% "Guiltily enjoying this swashbuckler... It's heavily Dumas, isn't it? A confection of Dumas plots?"
May 11, 2013 –
page 435
55.48% "Scene p.434-5: grotesquerie of war. But it has a sad feel."
May 12, 2013 – Shelved as: imagined-fiction
May 12, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Terri Ah, phantasmagorical. Now there's a word I don't see nearly enough in reviews. :-)
Great review again my dear.


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