09/06/2001

A Question of Integrity (by Susan Howatch)

This was, oddly enough, the first book I ever read by Susan Howatch. I say 'oddly enough' because it was one of her later books, and works best if read after her 'Starbridge' series of six. Or, at least, after 'Mystical Paths' which is the fifth in the Starbridge book.

So that's what I did this time - although, having said that, it worked very well as a standalone novel.

'A Question of Integrity' (published under the title 'The Wonder Worker' in the USA) opens with dumpy little Alice meeting and falling in love with Nick Darrow, a charismatic (in the broadest sense of the word) clergyman who conducts healing meetings.

Nick helps Alice in a family bereavement, in an extremely moving passage, and also helps her find both employment and some self-respect.

The book is told from four differing viewpoints, and the plot builds skillfully as each character revels new facets about himself or herself, and also gives their perspective on events that have already been described by others. It's really a very clever device, and one that the author uses extremely well.

Towards the end of the book there are some very dramatic crises, and my only (slight) disappointment was that the book ended rather suddenly, leaving me eager for more. What a relief it was, the first time, to realise that there were six books preceding this, and two more afterwards.

On the whole, though, it was excellent, and I thought it all the better for having re-read the Starbridge series first.

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