Glittering Images Summary
by Susan Howatch

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Glittering Images

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Dr. Charles Ashworth, a young widowed clergyman, is sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury to visit, for a few days, the home of the powerful Bishop of Starbridge, Alexander Jardine. The archbishop fears that beyond the facade presented to the public by Jardine, his charming but inadequate wife, Carrie, and his wife’s dedicated companion, Lyle Christie, there lies potential for explosive scandal. It is Ashworth’s mission to determine, within a very short period of time, whether there is any basis for the archbishop’s concern.

The engaging Ashworth arrives to visit and is quickly accepted by Jardine and his houseguests. He easily learns much about the bishop which is on the surface, all positive. As he is drawn gradually into a complex psychological relationship with the charismatic bishop, he simultaneously finds himself strongly attracted to the enigmatic Miss Christie. The sudden intensity of these relationships causes Ashworth’s own “glittering image” to begin to disintegrate. To save his sanity, he is forced to explore the deep recesses of his own mind. With the compassionate help of his spiritual adviser, he solves the mystery of his own identity--with the remarkable result that the mystery behind Bishop Jardine’s and Lyle Christie’s glittering images also is resolved.

This is a novel which depends on dialogue rather than action to keep the reader engrossed. Using theology, popular Freudian concepts, and a thorough knowledge of the Church of England in the 1930’s, the author has created an absorbing story with a surprising resolution.