Thursday, September 27, 2007

the last book I read

The Colour Of Blood by Brian Moore.

No, not that Brian Moore, this one. It's the Irish pronunciation, Bree-an, rather than the more usual Breye-an; Moore was born and raised in Belfast and retained the Gaelic pronunciation for the rest of his life, despite spending most of the latter half of it in Canada and California. This threw me a bit of a dummy when I started the book as I assumed, when it introduced the principal character, a Catholic cardinal, that it was set in Northern Ireland. However, it's actually set in an unnamed satellite state of the former Soviet Union - somewhere like Ukraine or Moldova, we're invited to assume.

Cardinal Stephen Bem is the head of the Catholic church in this unnamed state, and survives an assassination attempt in the first couple of pages. Thereafter he's constantly on the run from a number of shadowy enemies - the Soviet-run secret police, a shadowy revolutionary group hoping to foment a revolution and a group of maverick churchmen sympathetic to the revolutionary cause.

Read as a straight adventure story with plenty of exciting pursuits and double-crossing it's very satisfying; needless to say there's some subtext regarding the conflict of loyalties between church and state, and what influence the former can have over the latter, particularly under a regime where dissent, however politely expressed, usually lands you with a one-way trip to the salt mines.

Subtext or not, it all builds to an exciting climax, with a bit of a last-minute twist. The book was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1987, but lost out to Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger, to which, having read both, I say: fair enough, really.


Anonymous said...

This comment is not about the book you have written about, but I just want to know if you have read anything by Andrew Cowan. I read a (frog) literary review this weekend singing his praises, and I don't know anything about him or his books.
Have you read any of his books? wot u reckon?

electrichalibut said...

Can't help you there I'm afraid, as I've never read anything by him either. All sounds quite interesting though. Get out there, read one, and report back. You know you want to.

Anonymous said...

yer, might actually do that, once i've got past rugby world cup frenzy.. oh and i've got a fish pie project on the go as well.

I'm just not sure how reliable a (frog) literary review is.. know wot i mean? Frogs like books like APFOM for goodness sake.

Anyway, I'll put the review to the test and let you know.