Sunday, 4 April 2010

Book of the Week - Nigel Farndale, The Blasphemer

The Blasphemer, by Nigel Farndale, was published a few weeks ago, but was recently recommended to me by a colleague. It has received mixed reviews, which I suspect may have more to do with the sympathies and occupation of the author than the qualities of the book. Farndale (born September 30, 1964) is a British author and journalist, known for his award-winning interviews in the Sunday Telegraph, which has reviewed the book very favourably, along with one of his previous employers (the Spectator). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Guardian has been less sympathetic! Farndale has previously written four books: a novel, two biographies and a collection of interviews. His Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce was published by Macmillan in 2005 and shortlisted for that year’s Whitbread Prize and James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Farndale grew up in the Yorkshire Dales, read philosophy for a master's degree at Durham University and worked as a farmer before becoming a journalist — he wrote an abusive letter to Auberon Waugh, who then asked him to write for Literary Review. He was a contributor to various papers and magazines after that, among them the Sunday Times, Country Life and Spectator. Since 1995, he has been a regular feature writer and columnist for the Sunday Telegraph. He is married with three sons and lives on the border between Hampshire and Sussex.

"On its way to the Galapagos Islands, a light aircraft ditches into the sea. As the water floods through the cabin, zoologist Daniel Kennedy faces an impossible choice - should he save himself, or Nancy, the woman he loves? In a parallel narrative, it is 1917 and Daniel's great grandfather Andrew is preparing to go over the top at Passchendaele. He, too, will have his courage tested, and must live with the moral consequences of his actions. Back in London, the atheistic Daniel is wrestling with something his 'cold philosophy' cannot explain - something unearthly he thought he saw while swimming for help in the Pacific. But before he can make sense of it, the past must collapse into the present, and both he and Andrew must prove themselves capable of altruism, and deserving of forgiveness. "The Blasphemer" is a story about conditional love, cowardice and the possibility of redemption - and what happens to a man of science when forced to question his certainties. It is a novel of rare depth, empathy and ambition that sweeps from the trenches of the First World War to the terrorist-besieged streets of London today: a novel that will speak to the head as well as the heart of any reader."

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