Glamorous Powers

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jonathan Darrow is in his monk’s cell when he perceives the light changing around him. Suddenly, he finds himself standing in a dell beside a country chapel, looking at a peculiar suitcase. Entering the chapel, he is overwhelmed by a heavenly ray of light which streams in from a northern window and strikes the cross above the altar. When his vision ends, Darrow, who is sixty years old and has two children, Martin and Ruth, by a previous marriage, knows that he must leave the monastery, which has been his home for seventeen years, to reenter the world and marry again.

Darrow reconciles with his rival, Francis Ingram, the Abbot-General, in the process of struggling for permission to leave the Order. Soon after, he meets a young woman, Anne Barton-Woods, who owns both the suitcase and the chapel of his vision; they marry. Darrow’s pride seduces him to take on a mission of faith healing and exorcism, with disastrous results. In the spiritual crisis which follows, he comes to realize the truth of his past: He employed the same crippling pattern of deception and denial in rearing his children that his father had used with him. This psychological revelation allows him to heal his family relations and regain control of his “glamorous powers.”

Howatch is a master at establishing and maintaining the believability of the fascinating world of this psychic monk. She allows the reader to experience the ecstasy of Darrow’s visions of the future, and his anguish as he comes clearly to understand his past. GLAMOROUS POWERS is a strangely comforting and inspirational book. It seems to imply that psychic ability is no substitute for the more mundane healing forces of understanding, acceptance, and love.