Absolute Truths (Starbridge Series #6)

Absolute Truths (Starbridge Series #6)

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by Susan Howatch

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NARRATIVE. . .Formidable personalities embroil themselves in ruthless power struggles that would make a corporate raider blush."
--The Washington Post Book World
It is 1965, and Charles Ashworth has attained the plum position of bishop of Starbridge, an honor that keeps him in a heady whirl of activity that


NARRATIVE. . .Formidable personalities embroil themselves in ruthless power struggles that would make a corporate raider blush."
--The Washington Post Book World
It is 1965, and Charles Ashworth has attained the plum position of bishop of Starbridge, an honor that keeps him in a heady whirl of activity that would exhaust the most seasoned corporate executive. With the invaluable support of his minions and his attractive, unsinkable wife, Ashworth stands against the amorality and decadence of the age--"Anti-Sex Ashworth." He slays his opponents by being a tough, efficient, confident churchman, the torments of his past long since dead and buried.
And then the unexpected, the unthinkable, strikes.
Suddenly Ashworth finds himself staring into the chasm of all the lies hes been telling himself for years: about his marriage, his children, even his views on the Church. And as he suspects his old nemesis and dean, Neville Aysgarth, of drinking too much, of financial chicanery, of--God forbid--having an affair, Ashworth discovers to his horror that he is tempted to commit the very acts that he has so publicly
denounced. . . .
"ENTHRALLING. . .Rich, dense, almost indecently entertaining."
--San Jose Mercury News
--Booklist (starred review)

From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The sixth and final volume in a series that began with Glittering Images, this novel again displays Howatch's ability to meld an involving, character-driven story with a larger theme, that of spiritual quest and fulfillment. This time, however, the centrality-and discussion-of ecclesiastical issues tends to slow the narrative. The book is set during the mid-1960s, the period during which the Church of England-not to mention the rest of the country and beyond-was rocked by widespread challenges to tradition. Again representing tradition is narrator Charles Ashworth, the Anglican Bishop of Starbridge, who promotes the so-called Middle Way, a half-and-half mixture of Catholicism and Protestantism. Ashworth's archenemy-and doppelgnger-is Neville Aysgarth, the Dean of the Cathedral who is, according to Ashworth, unorthodoxly open to using the trappings of a capitalistic marketplace to benefit the financially deteriorating church building. To make matters worse, Aysgarth is an alleged dipsomaniac and womanizer, who once made a pass at Ashworth's beloved wife, Lyle. When Lyle dies suddenly, the bereaved widower strays dangerously from the fold, but he does not experience a redemption-through-repentance journey as dramatic as those of Arthur Dimmesdale or Raskolnikov. Which isn't to say that Ashworth doesn't suffer, but his enlightenment is far less dramatic and therefore less convincing than those literary prototypes, and it's unsettling that at the end he still thinks skeletons in the cupboard can be exorcised through intellectual speculation. Lucidly written for those who have not read the other volumes, Absolute Truths should prove to be a satisfying finishing stroke for those who have. BOMC alternate; author tour. (Jan.)
Library Journal
This final novel in a double trilogy about the Church of England in the 1930s and the 1960s is a splendid conclusion to the series (begun with Glittering Images, LJ 6/1/87) and a powerful combination of psychological insight, theological depth, and storytelling ability. Howatch simultaneously provides her reader with both marvelous entertainment and genuine insight into the human condition. The narrator for this volume is Charles Ashworth, now Bishop of Starbridge, who staunchly, even self-righteously, defends traditional values. This continues until crisis-and his wife's journal-reveal to him the "shadow" side of his own life and its effect on his two sons; his dean, Stephen Aysgarth; other clergy; several women; and himself. The end is phoenix-like, as characters rise from their own ashes, yet never unrealistic. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Carolyn M. Craft, Longwood Coll., Farmville, Va.
Stuart Whitwell
The sixth and final part of Howatch's Church of England series is a powerful advocate of the whole, matching the drama and emotional reach of Glamorous Powers" (1988) and Ultimate Prizes" (1989). Charles Ashworth, the narrator of the first in the series (Glittering Images", 1987), is even more attractive as an aging intellectual bishop struggling to come to terms with the very un-Christian 1960s. His attempt to maintain discipline, faith, and a relationship with God in the midst of a troubling secular world goes right to the heart of the Howatch project in these six magnificent novels. There's really very little like this work in modern literature. There are hints of Trollope, hints of C. S. Lewis, in these pages, but nowhere else does one discover the distinctive genius of Anglican theology--intelligent, commonsensical, optimistic--so movingly wrapped in the heartbreaking dramas of husbands, wives, fathers, children, and spiritual guides. At the center of each novel is a tragedy, beyond which is an epiphany the narrator cannot quite grasp. Charles' tragedy is the loss of his closest companion, but, of course, his problems go much deeper. The shield of his glittering image, shattered once before, six novels ago, is shattered again. But Howatch's novels are not so much about tragedy as about the way ordinary men and women struggle through humility and forgiveness toward the far horizon of redemption. Little more can be said about this miraculous cycle of novels. These are works that deserve to endure well beyond the troubled age that spawned them.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Starbridge Series , #6
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Random House
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File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Susan Howatch was born in Surrey in 1940. After taking a degree in law she emigrated to America where she married, had a daughter and embarked on her career as a writer. When she eventually left the states, she lived in the Republic of Ireland for four years before returning to England. She spent time in Salisbury - the inspiration for her Starbridge sequence of novels - and now lives in London.

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Absolute Truths 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
OxmoonLives More than 1 year ago
the last and possibly the best in the series. what a book! read it.
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