Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Book Review: Turbulent Priests

Colin Bateman's sixth novel heralds the return of journalist Dan Starkey, investigating the outbreak of belief in the rebirth of the Messiah on the quirky Wrathlin Island. With a funny, if strangely contrived parody of the Nativity, little Christine is believed to be the bringer of fresh revelation and worker of miracles - at the age of four. And Starkey is on the case.

As with his other books, Bateman presents a variety of characters, who will cause eruptions of laughter at their actions and words. The parochialism of a small island, the ease of dominating a group, the perils of joining a close-knit community are all on display as Starkey settles into a new role as 'father' to his wife's son. As expected from the title, there are some observations and assertions on the role of faith and religion in the community, and the priests are indeed turbulent!

Here's how Father Flynn (previously encountered in Cycle of Violence) describes his vocation:

'You should understand first that I never have been particularly religious. That may seem a strange statement for a priest, but it's the truth. Becoming a priest can sometimes be like becoming a plumber or an electrician, something you go into because it's a secure job or because it's something for which you have a natural aptitude. It isn't necessarily something you have a particular love for. You learn it off by heart. That's how I was before my operation. I was doing a job. Just a job.'

This is the same Father Flynn who, hilariously, has a heart transplant, and is found to have been given a Protestant heart, which has somehow changed him! Another little glimmer of Bateman's oneliners can be found when Starkey talks of how 'I'm the product of a mixed marriage. My father was an agnostic, my mother an atheist, although they still counted themselves as good Protestants. Protestantism never has and never will be about religion. It's about property, and culture and spitting at Catholics.'

Still on religion and such like, Bateman has the Catholic Archbishop say the following: 'Evidence? This is the Catholic Church, man, we don't need evidence. We need faith, we need belief, we need trust. Since when has evidence ever been a requirement of a religion?' Funny to hear, but sadly very mistaken in practice.

One last little taster of Bateman's writing style. Check out this exchange as Flynn tells Starkey about going to investigate the little Messiah:

Flynn: 'On the one hand, I was dying with excitement, on the other hand desperately embarrassed. I mean, how do you walk up to a house and enquire if the Messiah is at home? Has the Messiah finished his homework yet?'
Starkey: 'I ca see where there might be a little awkwardness about it.'
'So what did you do?'
'I prayed, I took a deep breath, then I walked up to the front door, rang the bell, and waited to see what happened.'
'Well, nothing happened. The bell wasn't working. A bit of an anti-climax really...

It draws you in, causes you to get into the story, and then gives you a little humorous jump when you least expect it.

The story goes on, with some more mysterious happenings on Wrathlin. What is the secret of the island? What will happen to the messiah? How turbulent can the priests really be? You'll just have to read it to find out. [As before, warnings about bits of language, but for me, the story can be enjoyed while ignoring the profanity.] Buy it on Amazon (Kindle)

No comments:

Post a Comment