Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Praise for R. J. Ellory's A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS

Eleanor Bukowsky takes a look at A Quiet Belief in Angels on the popular Mostly Fiction blog: "R. J. Ellory’s A Quiet Belief in Angels is the heartrending story of Joseph Vaughn, a boy who grows up under an unlucky star. The narrator is only eleven when his thirty-seven year old father, Earl, dies in 1939, leaving him and his impoverished young mother to fend for themselves. Earl’s death leaves Joseph and his mother deeply shaken. The boy is further traumatized when a classmate is found dead, after having been stripped, beaten, and assaulted by an unknown perpetrator. This girl’s murder is just the first in a long string of calamities that will dog Augusta Falls, Georgia, where Joseph and his mother live. The specter of death constantly haunts this tragic tale of hopes dashed and innocent lives snuffed out prematurely. The author eloquently and vividly evokes the atmosphere of rural Georgia before the Second World War, where people make do with very little, gossip is a way of life, neighbors help neighbors, and outsiders are never fully accepted. There was “a richness in friendship and community” that helped compensate for a lack of material wealth. Joseph, who is highly intelligent, sensitive, and imaginative, is given a much-needed boost by his beloved teacher, Miss Webber, who encourages him to become an avid reader and try his hand at creative writing. This multi-faceted novel blends disparate elements that do not always smoothly coexist. Side by side with scenes of gothic horror are poignant romantic encounters. Humor and tragedy intermingle freely. Although Joseph benefits from a few close friendships, he also endures unspeakable betrayals. Throughout, he recalls in flashback the high and lows of his tumultuous life. Vaughn is a three-dimensional protagonist who holds this somewhat sprawling book together when it is in danger of sinking under its own weight. In an electrifying conclusion, Joseph decides that it is his responsibility to mete out punishment on behalf of the many people whose lives have been ruined by a psychopathic and manipulative villain. It is likely that Ellory tries to do too much in this murder mystery/ coming-of-age story/ exploration of family angst/ and study of small town life. Still, A Quiet Belief in Angels has a gripping quality that draws us in and keeps us on tenterhooks until it culminates in an explosive confrontation between good and evil."

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