Satan, in the form of a bewildered and naked Old Man, arrives in Brighton one dark and snowy December morning. That night a gull kills itself trying to get at Lucy Cuthman, a charity worker in her early 30s, through her bedroom window. A thick fog descends over the city - and lingers. The Old Man is twice attacked on the streets, before finding the squat where Geoffrey Cantor, our cultured and Byron-quoting narrator, lives.
The Old Man discovers he has a mesmeric singing voice, and starts to busk around Brighton. He attracts the attention of Lucy, who is so diabolically enchanted that she can only see him as a beautiful young boy in need of help. In this guise, the Old Man visits her at work one evening - and promptly disappears. Hopelessly beguiled, Lucy searches everywhere for him. Meanwhile, mysterious bundles of money start turning up at her charity...
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
Full of dark and unsettling imagery, it is very beautifully written – the prose is really outstanding, conjuring up some really powerful scenes. ~ Nicole Sweeney, The Bibliophile Chronicles
At the outset of this book you will rightly be a bit confused. It won't exactly be clear who is narrating, and it won't at all be clear which of the characters will become our main focus. Sometimes the narrator addresses "Belinda" in the second person, which I think is both creepy and clever if done well, (as everything in this book is done). Sometimes we just have an omniscient narrator who is clearly telling us a tale about events that have already occurred. The effect is oddly disorienting, which is, I imagine, the point.
Once Lucy, the real heroine, is introduced, you should pause and return to the two epigraphs that open the book. If you are like me you just skimmed them, especially since they are from John Milton's "Paradise Lost" and Baudelaire's "The Cat", and I have never seen anything good come from epigraphs like those. Until now. You will find that those two brief sets of lines will explain everything about the narrator, (you would have figured that out anyway), and cogently and completely summarize the theme, plot, and resolution of the entire novella. (That last insight might otherwise have come only later.)
All of the blurbs, summaries and synopses for this book, at least those I have seen, make this sound vaguely like a Christmas themed Satan/Scrooge tale wherein Satan enchants a social worker and drops off bundles of money at her charity house. That is actually technically correct, but rather misses the larger story. As John Milton tells us, Satan was initially beguiled by Eve, then consumed by self-loathing for giving in to a pleasure he was not allowed, and responded as fit his true nature. That's as close as we need come to a spoiler, but if it whets your interest, great.
I'm not sure if any of this would matter much but for the remarkable writing. Eve and the Serpent is a story that has already been told many times and in many forms. So the real question is, "What do we think of this telling?". Well, on one level the book works as an exercise in creeping dread, with dark hints and promises of doom. Fair enough. On another level, though, almost every page has a memorable line, observation, bit of dialogue or description that is of worth purely on its own. At points I thought we were over-describing things a bit, but the author always backs off at just the right time. The result is that there are hard and precise little scenes that are connected by dreamy and lyrical passages, and emphasized by bright and glittering lines and asides from our narrator. There is a place here for heartbreak, despair, amusement, and rueful wisdom. Indeed, without any story or theme at all beyond what-happens-in-Brighton-before-Christmas I would have been happy with this book and deeply admiring of the author's technical skill and finesse.
As a consequence, I felt this was an especially happy, and admittedly somewhat unexpected, find. ~ Joel Smith, GoodReads
This short story for me is a modern day take of the fall of ' EVE', with a small influence of 'Joe Black' to boot. The story is set in Brighton and is told through the eyes of a character called Geoffrey Cantor who begins with his personal recital of the happenings of a young lady called 'Lucy', motivated by his ensuing personal guilt of not doing enough to save her.
Satan falls to earth and occupies the body of homeless Old Man, who soon finds out that he has an amazing voice, and a capacity to charm. Lucy has an encounter, but seeing only what the eye beholds, a beautiful boy! This one encounter thus begins the fall of 'Eve'. The seductive nature of Lucifer endures and leaves Lucy with a yearning to see, speak, and to be at one with the one who is corruption itself.
I enjoyed the descriptions in the narrative having been to Brighton , it certainly felt I was there again; the homeless project work, the dishing out of Vegan Breakfasts to those who have 'fallen 'out of the mainstream society, having little hope to change and amend their circumstances.
There are many layers to this story, if one is to scratch the surface; various metaphors are used whether consciously by the author or not; but nevertheless are there and linked to the key events in the narrative. Christopher encapsulates fully in my opinion the capacity of love and hate within the human condition, when he states; 'If it is possible to love so completely that it fills the whole of you, that you feel it in your blood and lungs, your spine and in how it charms the words as they lift your tongue, then perhaps it is possible to hate so completely that it hollows you'.
An interesting and enjoyable take on a theological topic.
Links: ~ Michael Steed, Books and Blarney Book Blog
This book stays with you, and it deserves more words than can be said here. But, I’ll try. The Visitor is a quick read that draws you in and leaves you longing for more. Well done. Pulse racing anticipation and detailing throughout the entire thing; not a dull moment in sight.
~ Dashauna Baynes , GoodReads
A tantalizing thriller. A great read for a vacant night. I was intrigued from the first page, and the book didn't let me go until I'd flipped the last page. I looked forward to reading more from this author.
~ Kensley Lewis, NetGalley