Ali M.'s Reviews > All Hallows' Eve

All Hallows' Eve by Charles  Williams
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really liked it

Like The Place of the Lion, this is a deeply strange novel that’s not concerned with explaining its particular brand of madness to you. Williams writes in long, dense, loaded sentences with little breathing room. He can get a bit too abstract at times, forgetting to let the story do the philosophical work for him, but his imagery is so original and arresting that it's worth the effort.

All Hallows’ Eve is driven by the relationship between three female friends—it just so happens that two of them are dead when the story begins. I was fascinated to see that the women have almost exclusive rights to agency here; nearly all of the men (even the villain, at times) are just along for the ride. On the surface, the friendship between Lester, Betty, and Evelyn appears simple. In the spiritual realm they inhabit, it is terribly complex. Small choices matter greatly in Williams’ theology—or rather, the scale is thrown out and all choices have a measurable impact, whether they seem petty or significant by our own standards.

People are not fully separated from their former life in the City; it's a place where the worlds of the living and the dead remain tangled, where those who have recently died are allowed to work out what kind of immortal they will become. Sometimes, this involves the opportunity to make amends with the living. Body and spirit are also not completely divisible in the City... both play a role in identity for the characters, and Simon’s sorcery begins and ends with bodies (whether created or hijacked) he has bent to his will. I loved the narrative comment that evil doesn't create ‘evil art’, just bad art that's essentially plagiarized and looks off under any amount of scrutiny—it can only temporarily deceive, never convince.

There's plenty of unsettling material in All Hallows' Eve (you'd hope so with that title), but it doesn't feel crafted to scare. Williams seems more interested in finding the right metaphor than he does in provoking a reaction. You get the impression that this is simply subject matter that interests him, more than anything else. It's not surprising that he never enjoyed the same success as his buddies Lewis and Tolkien, but the more I read from him, the more I want to dig up (and I can see his influence on Lewis in particular).
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Reading Progress

November 3, 2009 – Shelved
October 3, 2014 – Started Reading
November 14, 2014 –
page 120
December 8, 2014 – Finished Reading

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