I’m a huge fan of Penelope Wilcock’s series of books called The Hawk and the Dove about a medieval monastery and the lives of the monks of St.Alcuin. So when I spotted The Clear Light of Day, set in present day England, at the used bookstore, I snapped it up. And it was a lovely, but frustrating, read.
The lovely part was an unconventional romance between a middle-aged, divorced Methodist minister, Esme Browne, and an older (much older) country eccentric who repairs bicycles, does odd-jobs, and spins rather unoriginal homespun philosophies. The frustrating part was the Oprah-ish spirituality that was supposed to be oh-so-free-thinking and new and unorthodox. Jabez Ferral and his even older friend Ember are “spiritual but not religious” and the parts of the book in which they told about how they believed in “simplicity” and “thinking globally and acting locally” bored me and made me want to quit reading. Here’s an example:
Iâ€™m not sure what deity is, my love; but life is sacred, life is wise. One day, if my smoke finds the way home, and wakes the great Spirit, then the face of life that is death will come speeding silent like a hunting owl, and take the cancer of humanity off this poor, stripped, raped mother Earth, take it silent and quick, no more than a squeak of alarm; and the mountains will have their peace again, and the oceans give back the heavenly blue. The guns and the cars will rust, and the televisions will be quiet at last, and the factories and schools and government buildings will be for the bramble, the rat, and the crow. Is that what you call praying?
I don’t like preachy books, especially when they’re not even preaching the gospel, but rather some kind of spiritual gobbledygook.
So, good story, good characters, too much (bad) philosophy. Stick to Ms. Wilcock’s monks, who sometimes venture into post-modern spirituality but are kept from its worst excesses by the need for historical verisimilitude.