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Description - Absolute Truths by Susan Howatch

Reissue of the author's most famous and well-loved work, the Starbridge series, six self-contained yet interconnected novels that explore the history of the Church of England through the 20th century. Charles Ashworth is privileged, pampered and pleased with himself. As Bishop of Starbridge in 1965 he 'purrs along as effortlessly as a well-tuned Rolls-Royce' while he proclaims his famous 'absolute truths' to a society which he sees - with rage and revulsion - as increasingly immoral and disordered. But then a catastrophe tears his life apart and confronts him with the real absolute truths, truths which so shatter him that he finds himself stripped of his pride and struggling for survival. Grappling with the revelation that he has failed his wife, short-changed one son and distorted the personality of the other, Charles's guilt steadily drives him into the immoral and disordered life he has condemned so violently in others. Fighting against the threat of complete breakdown, he then embarks on a quest to rebuild not only his private life but his professional life, a quest which leads him to a final battle with his old enemy Dean Aysgarth in the shadow of Starbridge Cathedral.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780006496885
ISBN-10: 0006496881
Format: Paperback
(197mm x 130mm x 43mm)
Pages: 672
Imprint: Harper
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publish Date: 22-Jul-1996
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Absolute Truths by Susan Howatch

US Kirkus Review » Old wounds are healed and new loves found on Starbridge Close in this, the final novel in the bestselling sextet (Glittering Images, 1987, Mystical Paths, 1992, et al.), which, like its predecessors, transforms the private lives of English high churchmen into an absorbing novel of intrigue and mysteries, divine and temporal. In a nice symmetrical touch, the narrator is again Dr. Charles Ashworth, whose adventures began the series. Now in his 80s, Ashworth, prompted by the obituary of old nemesis Neville Aysgarth, recalls the events of "the year of my third catastrophe." That year is 1965, and Ashworth is a bishop "famous for defending tradition at a time when all traditions were under attack." Such rigid adherence to absolute truths is asking for trouble, and sure enough trouble is soon on its way. An elderly homosexual vicar is found beaten up; to avoid scandal, Ashworth hides the old man's porn collection from the police; son Michael threatens to marry a most unsuitable girl; Aysgarth is being suspiciously cagey about the Cathedral fund-raising accounts; and Lyle, Ashworth's beloved wife, suddenly dies. As Ashworth responds to these crises, grief and the knowledge that he had not helped Lyle when she needed it makes him behave erratically. He sleeps with a widow, drinks too much, quarrels with his sons and Aysgarth. He has a terrifying encounter in the Cathedral, which convinces him it is possessed by demons. But spiritual peace and new love - an old flame from the past turns up - only come to the bishop when charismatic Lewis Hall conducts a dramatic exorcism that reveals the Cathedral's demons to be Ashworth's long-suppressed guilt, and when aging mystic Jon Darrow elicits confessions from both Aysgarth and Ashworth. A superb climax to a sequence that has triumphantly vindicated that ill-assorted gang of four - plot, prayer, perfidy, and priests. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Susan Howatch

Susan Howatch was born in Surrey in England. After taking a degree in law at King's College, London, she emigrated to America where she married, had a daughter, and embarked on her career as a writer. In 1976 she separated from her husband, left America and lived in the Republic of Ireland for four years before returning to England. While living in a flat overlooking Salisbury Cathedral and "trying to hold my divided self together", she found herself inspired by the beauty of the cathedral and became a convert. She wondered if she should continue producing romantic novels. Instead, she wrote the series of six Starbridge novels about the Church of England in the 20th century, all of which reflect her own spiritual crises.

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