The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale
‘He had always been scared of flying. Now, the fear is real. A plane crash. The water is rising over his mouth. In his nostrils. Lungs. As Daniel gasps, he swallows; and punches at his seat-belt. Nancy, the woman he loves, is trapped in her seat. He clambers over her, pushing her face into the headrest.
It is a reflex, visceral action made without rational thought…
But Daniel Kennedy did it. And already we have judged him from the comfort of our own lives.’
This book was in a pile given to me by my mother in law and it was this description on the back which drew me in. Mostly because it was so accurate. I had already decided what kind of book this was going to be simply from reading the blurb, had an image in my mind of who Daniel was before I ever cracked the spine and read the first page.
Although the blurb on the back is slightly misleading (it isn’t quite the type of story you imagine it will be) I still thought this was an interesting read, but mostly because the the novel switches between the main protagonist, Daniel, in the present day and his Great Grandfather who was a solider in Passchendaele in 1917 and 1918. The closet historian in me could happily have read just the Great Grandfather’s tale as I found it fascinating.
Now, to what I didn’t enjoy. Although it seems as though the book has been very well researched, I almost got the impression that Farndale had a lot of different points he wanted to make and he used this book to cram them all in together, even when they didn’t work.
There is the historical element, which sits alongside continuous references to Darwinism versus Religion and their roles in society. I’ll admit that at these points I tended to glaze over as I neither fully understood what was being referenced nor felt it was relevant to the plot. I guess that might be my own ignorance.
Then there is the continued references to masculinity and what makes, a man, ‘a man’. At several points throughout the book we are left with the suggestion that Daniel is not ‘a man’ (whatever that may mean) and Farndale tries to challenge perception of masculinity by having Daniel’s best friend be gay but with the physique of a rugby player and his Grandfather, a soldier, as the type to wear silk underwear and dress as a woman.
Did I mention the Muslim terrorist plot, kidnapping of Daniel’s 8 year old diabetic daughter, the colleague who is in love with his long term partner and continually attempts to sabotage Daniel’s career and the continued references to guardian angels….? Not failing to take into account the initial plane crash and you might begin to see what I mean.
The plot is just far too busy and what you get are some great concepts which are not fully explored as there simply wasn’t the time in the pages we are given.
That said, it’s an interesting concept and I didn’t hate it. I just probably wouldn’t rush to buy another of Nigel Farndale’s books in the future.