Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 387
Reason for Reading : Man Booker Challenge

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2006, this was a fascinating novel. Written as it the incident really happened, Gideon Mack was a minister without any faith. One day he fell into the Black Jaws (a gorge in Scotland) trying to rescue a friend's dog and is pulled out by someone he claimes to be the Devil. The Devil nurses him back to health and sends him back into the wide world where he tells his story. He is summarily denounced, his friends stop speaking to him and he is facing a libel suit as well as being dismissed as a minister. All this ends when he goes mising and months later is found dead.

The novel begins with a prologue by the "publisher" of Gideon's manuscript which gives an outline of the facts of the case reported by the press as well as two witnesses who claim to have seen Gideon after he was supposed to have been killed. Gideon's narrative then begins in ernest starting with his bleak childhood growing up as the son of a minister who never seems to have loved his wife (Gideon's mother). Gideon finds freedom, his best friend, his future wife and future mistress at university before following in his fathers footsteps, despite having lost his faith many years ago (if he ever really had it to begin with). Things tick along in Gideon's life (with the exception of one major tragedy), until one day he finds a mysterious standing stone in a clearing that wasn't there before and that no one else seems able to see. It sets off a series of events which lead to his eventual mysterious death.

It is the characters that make the story. Elsie and Catherine Cragie in particular as well as the Devil obviously, but even down to the publisher, freelance journalist, the barber and Bill Winnyford who isn't quite what he seems. The story moves along and carries the reader with it. It is such a realistic place that you feel like you have walked the streets and run in he woods as well as met the people. I liked the idea that the Devil doesn't know where God is, he has disappeared after they both seem to have tired of humans. As the novel says, who is this time would believe a man has been trapped in a cave and conversed with the Devil for three days, but the end is open enough to allow for anything to be true. You really do wonder if Gideon was indeed mad as many of the townsfolk attest, or if it was bizzarre enough to have really been true.

3 comments:

Ladytink_534 said...

I like the cover, it reminds me of a short story by Stephen King (I think). The story is completely different of course.

Nymeth said...

wow, I had never heard of it before but it does sound absolutely fascinating! Thanks for the review, this is going on my wishlist.

Cath said...

I read this one last year and after I'd finished couldn't decide whether I liked it or not. Gideon was such an unpleasant character but I did like the style of the writing very much. Sort of Victorian or Edwardian in its attention to detail. Very clever.