Absolute Truths (Starbridge Series #6)

Absolute Truths (Starbridge Series #6)

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by Susan Howatch
     
 

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The time is 1965; the place, once again, is the town of Starbridge, whose great cathedral dominates both its physical and its psychological landscape. Charles Ashworth, the Bishop of Starbridge, is a man of great accomplishment and confidence, of enormous power and influence within the Church; a man whose moments of personal crisis have, in the past, only led to…  See more details below

Overview

The time is 1965; the place, once again, is the town of Starbridge, whose great cathedral dominates both its physical and its psychological landscape. Charles Ashworth, the Bishop of Starbridge, is a man of great accomplishment and confidence, of enormous power and influence within the Church; a man whose moments of personal crisis have, in the past, only led to deeper levels of spirituality, of certainty and conviction in his calling. Now Ashworth has assumed the role of defender of the traditions which he sees coming under attack all around him. Obliged to endure a dissolute, demoralized, disordered society, he is nonetheless indefatigable in his fight against decadence. Within the Church he has earned a reputation as a strong, efficient, no-nonsense bishop. Outside the Church, he is known as "Anti-Sex Ashworth," a name that he insists narrows the scope of his battle, but that he carries proudly nonetheless. He is a man who, by his own estimation, has "purred along as effortlessly as a well-tuned Rolls-Royce": fit, busy, respected, pampered, privileged . . . and steaming blindly, but smoothly, toward the abyss. A profound crisis of Ashworth's faith begins unexpectedly and with brutal force when his beloved wife dies. Bereavement overwhelming his spiritual equilibrium, his strict morality is quickly revealed to him to be nothing more than a facade. Behind it is a maze of blinding grief and denial, of hypocrisy and estrangement from his sons, his colleagues, his parishioners. Spiralling downwards, Ashworth knows he must find his way out of the maze of his own psyche, and that in doing so he will face the most difficult spiritual test of his life: to acknowledge the absolute truths - both good and bad - that have shaped his past, and may be the only keys to his future.

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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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780517170779
Publisher:
Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:
09/15/1996
Series:
Starbridge Series, #6

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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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago