A Quiet Belief in Angels by R J Ellory

What we remember from childhood we remember forever - permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen. -- Cynthia Ozik

One day in July 1939, when he was still a little boy, a feather blew into his room. Joseph was sure it was the sign of a visit from an angel. What he did not realise was that it was a sign of a visit from the Angel of Death. On the same July day, the Angel of Death pays a visit and takes away his father.

Later in life, Joseph came to realise that a white feather was for him the sign of an impending visit by the Angel of Death.

Death haunts Augusta Falls in Georgia. Not the Death of World War II which acts as a backdrop, this is much closer to home. A series of brutal murders of little girls, class mates of Joseph. The girls are brutally raped, their mutilated bodies left behind.

Death is there, walking the streets. Death is a stranger.

Joseph's childhood is haunted by a serial killer who is killing little girls in his neighbourhood. Joseph feels powerless to stop the killer. The nightmares haunt him into adulthood.

Joseph also has dreams, he dreams of being a writer. He is encouraged by his mother and teacher. His teacher tells him to always tell the truth, to write what he believes in, not what others expect of him.

A parallel to be seen in the works of Paulo Coelho, follow ones dreams, what you believe in, not be a slave to the wishes of others, be true to yourself.

To encourage him, his teacher drops off for him as a birthday present, The Long Valley by John Steinbeck.

Later in life, reflecting on his childhood, Joseph sees himself as J D Salinger's 'Catcher' in The Catcher in the Rye.

The long descriptive passages are very reminiscent of Iain M Banks.

At times hints of Stephen King.

The past is composed of fragments of memory. Although the subject matter is different, the period is the same, construction of the past from fragments of memory, to be found in The Visible World by Mark Slouka.

We learn of the horrors of Augusta Falls through the narrative of Joseph, as he is growing up from childhood. Occasionally we have his thoughts in late adulthood, looking back and reflecting on his life.

At times I have believed that age is the enemy of truth.

As we grow older, with cynicism and bitterness heaped against us throughout the years, we lose our childlike innocence ...

Now I am old, and even though the truth is right in front of me, even though I am closer to the truth of what happened than ever before, I find myself afraid to look. The thing I fear most is that I will see a reflection of myself.

Joseph runs away to the big city hoping for anonymity, but still the nightmares haunt him.

A beautifully written, but haunting book. A thriller, but no ordinary thriller. At times too painful to read.

Shortlisted for the British Book Awards 2008.

The author, according to the footnotes, lives in Birmingham, but it is hard to believe this is Birmingham England, not Birmingham Alabama, as the author writes as one from the Deep South and one can almost hear the southern drawl as he writes.

Synchronicity: I was inspired to read A Quiet Belief in Angels by R J Ellory after talking with a girl who was reading the book. We got to talking about angels, I told her I had written an article on angels. We spoke again a few days later. She told me she had been out on a trip all day and had found three white feathers. A sure sign she told me of visits by angels. The day after we spoke, I checked my e-mail to find I had received an e-mail of angels! [see Synchronicity and angels]

A Copy of A Quiet Belief in Angels has been registered as BookCrossing book. [see BCID 5943940]

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Books Worth Reading
(c) Keith Parkins 2008 -- March 2008 rev 1