The Countenance Divine – Michael Hughes
The Last Word Review
For a debut novel The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes can only be described as ambitious. This is a novel that will sweep you through four centuries and through a number of different voices. At times a complex but also some real humour added.
The story moves from one century to another we are in the year 1666 the Plague and The Great Fire of London ravage the city and the impoverished John Milton is trying to complete his epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ despite the fact he was blind. It is 1777 and William Blake who is of course best known for writing ‘Jerusalem’ now becomes inspired by Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and now adds visions to the poem are these visions spiritual? We then move to 1888 and a more sinister individual in Jack the Ripper and his descriptions of some of his brutal murders are a little gruesome to read some may find this aspect difficult.
In 1999 and Chris a computer programmer was trying to make sure that the dreaded millennium bug never struck to bring chaos to the world akin to the end of days. Chris has an assistant called Lucy with whom he holds a torch for, though Lucy is a somewhat struck by the meltdown that could be about to happen seems constantly to have a cigarette constantly on the go. I actually got a real liking to both characters though each was different with Chris’s lack of confidence it was a case of hoping it would come off for them both.
Each time period has its own unique voice that tells of that time and as it shifts from one time to another it keeps the reader guessing and they must keep up with an ever shifting complex tale. As you try and figure out for yourself as to where the story is heading. It will test the reader for commitment but I for one feel that this is a story well worth a read during the autumn as the nights draw in. You really become absorbed into a plot that makes you think. It is cleverly stitched together novel from a writer with ambition and for a debut novel this is making a statement and one to keep an eye on for the future.
Thank you to John Murray publishers for the advanced review copy.
The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes is published by John Murray and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.