Charles Davis's first novel reflects his own peripatetic travels far from his native England to Sudan, Turkey, Ivory Coast, Spain, and France, and it explores the exhilarations and fears of the engagement with strange geographies and foreign cultures. Notwithstanding the use of ubiquitous Christian imagery, the prose is truly insightful, economical, and almost lyrical in its portrayal of the complexities of human action. A short narrative, Walk On, Bright Boy leaves the reader curious about the implied frame of the novel, a manuscript confession written for the Inquisition.
Despite its setting in medieval Spain, the novel speaks to contemporary collisions of political expediency and religious faith throughout the world. It is a reminder of the complexities of an individual's allegiance to religion, community, nation, and geographic place.
Written in the form of a confession by an elderly man looking back on the defining incident of his youth, Davis's brief debut takes place in a remote Spanish village during the Inquisition, after the Christians have conquered Moorish Spain. As a young man, the narrator befriends a Moor, who entertains the village children with stories and songs, and introduces them to the spiritual joy of walking. When some of the children disappear, an Inquisitor arrives to find the perpetrator and very quickly accuses the Moor of being a witch. Despite his best efforts to aid his friend, the narrator finds that the trial has been rigged by the Inquisitor, and the Moor will be found guilty and executed. When the narrator stumbles across the horrifying truth about what happened to the missing boys, he finds himself embarking on the longest walk of his young life. A combination of morality tale and gothic horror, the book raises questions about religious extremism, faith, miracles, justice and torture, but by-the-numbers plotting and thin characters drain the novel of emotional resonance. (Aug.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
A spare allegory of inquisition, miracle and redemption. While not a historical novel, Davis's debut is set in a vague, almost mythic past, after the Christian defeat of Muslim rule in the early Renaissance. The author is not interested in immersing us in historic density, however, but rather working by symbol and suggestion. The characters are either unnamed (the narrator) or given allegorical epithets (the Moor, the Inquisitor, the Factor). The narrator begins by recounting, some 70 years after the event, a boyhood memory of his attraction to the Moor, a charismatic acequero who helped teach Christian settlers how to irrigate the harsh, arid and mountainous land they inhabit. The Moor has a wealth of lore and narrative to beguile the village children, but he's by definition an outsider-he's also accused of blasphemy after imitating Christ's miracle of walking on water. An Inquisitor shows up to query the villagers, and eventually a show trial occurs in which the Moor is condemned and shortly thereafter executed. Years after this trauma, the boy still feels guilty of betrayal, for he's the one person who had intended to remain loyal to the Moor. Meanwhile, true evil shows up in the physically and morally deformed Factor, who is employed by the local monastery and who keeps pet lambs that he periodically sacrifices in a gruesome manner. He kidnaps the narrator and almost turns him into another sacrificial lamb. The novel concludes lyrically with the narrator returning years later to his village-and experiencing a miracle that leads him to realize that "if you choose an existence that lacks illusion and does not convert the clod of being to a thing of wonder and celebration, then you willdie before you have ever lived . . . "A poetic meditation on guilt and faith.