No Other Life

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In NO OTHER LIFE, his eighteenth novel, Brian Moore again reveals his penchant for plots which unobtrusively combine thriller elements with more profound moral and religious questions. Set on the imaginary Caribbean island of Ganae, the novel tells of a rural scholarship boy, Jean-Paul Cantave, or Jeannot, as he is called throughout. Rescued from a life of penury and oppression, he is educated for the priesthood and eventually becomes president of Ganae. The story of Jeannot is told by his mentor, a French Canadian missionary, Father Michel.

It is typical of Moore’s economical method that the use of the hero’s nickname serves as an expression both of the intimacy between Father Michel and his former pupil and of Jeannot’s links with the people whose ruler he becomes. The name becomes a constant reminder of the various conflicts which the priest and president must face: between the public man and the private one, between the political activist and the man of peace, and between the man of the people and the just ruler. Jeannot’s negotiation of these conflicts at once makes him a memorable character and the leader of a vulnerable regime.

The similarity of Ganae to Haiti, in language, terrain, and recent political turbulence reinforces the reader’s appreciation of Jeannot’s essentially Christian striving for peace and justice. Moore’s deft exploration of whether Jeannot’s obligations are to man or to God, hinted at in the novel’s title, supplements the novel’s action with a sense of the enigmatic nature of purpose and duty.

Sources for Further Study

Books in Canada. XXII, May, 1993, p.44.

Chicago Tribune. September 19, 1993, XIV, p.6.

The Christian Science Monitor. December 14, 1993, p.15.

Library Journal. CXVIII, August, 1993, p.154.

London Review of Books. XV, April 8, 1993, p.15.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. September 19, 1993, p.3.

New Statesman and Society. VI, February 19, 1993, p.41.

The New York Review of Books. XL, October 21, 1993, p.3.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, September 12, 1993, p.1

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, June 21, 1993, p.82.

The Times Literary Supplement. February 19, 1993, p.22.