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Tuesday, 8 March 2011
by Nigel Farndale
The Blasphemer begins with Daniel Kennedy, a zoologist who, to celebrate his 10 year anniversary with his partner, Nancy, is taking her to the Galapagos Islands for a surprise holiday where he intends to propose, and his Great Grandfather Andrew, a volunteer in WW1, who is preparing to go over the top at Passchendaele.
Daniel’s father is someone with whom he’s never been able to enjoy a close relationship. He passes Daniel a batch of his grandfather’s letters asking Daniel to give them to Nancy to translate for him.
On the way to the islands Daniel and Nancy’s plane crashes into the sea and without thinking, Daniel, pushes past her to get out of the plane and save himself. He does return to rescue her and other survivors of the crash before swimming for hours in an effort to get help, however the knowledge that he has instinctively put himself first has a lasting effect on him, and although he isn’t sure if Nancy is aware of what he’s done, he can feel her distancing herself from him. Whilst swimming for help Daniel begins to lose the will to live and is just about to unclip his life jacket when he sees a vision.
Daniel doesn’t believe in God. He is a scientist and has no time for people who believe in apparitions, so when he feels the need to find out more about other people’s apparent experiences, he confides in someone who he believes he can trust.
As the two stories emerge, it seems that Daniel isn’t the only one to have seen a vision. Daniel’s father has always believed that Andrew was killed on the first day of Passchendaele, but we discover that Andrew survived. What happened to him? Why did he make the choices he made and does Daniel take after him in the way he suspects? Both men have to make moral choices that will affect the rest of their lives and those around them and both of them will have to live with the consequences of their actions.
The two stories are obviously interlinked, as one is the great-grandfather of the other. We discover more about Daniel’s father as he tries to piece together his own past and unearth the truth about what really happened back in 1918 and see the repercussions of Daniel’s instinctive actions in the plane and how they’ll affect everyone and everything around him.
I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, but I do believe I enjoyed this book even more than Birdsong and that’s not something I thought possible. It’s a brilliantly written book with many cleverly thought out layers and the author is obviously knowledgeable about the First World War. I’m sure I’ll be reading this again at some point.
Reviewed by Debs Carr