Williams gives a contemporary setting to the traditional story of the Search for the Holy Grail. Examining the distinction between magic and religion, War in Heaven is an eerily disturbing book, one that graphically portrays a metaphysical journey through the shadowy crevices of the human mind.
|Publisher:||Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.61(d)|
About the Author
(1886-1945) An intense, imaginative, magnetic person,Charles Williams was a member of the Inklings, the group ofcreative Oxford Christians of the 1930s and 1940s thatincluded C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Though heexcelled in many literary genres, Williams is bestremembered for his poetry and his originalfictioncontemporary religious novels filled withsuspense, mystery, and supernatural conflict.
Table of Contents
I The Prelude 7
II The Evening in Three Homes 15
III The Archdeacon in the City 29
IV The First Attempt on the Graal 40
V The Chemist's Shop 56
VI The Sabbath 69
VII Adrian 78
VIII Fardles 94
IX The Flight of the Duke of the North Ridings 111
X The Second Attempt on the Graal 125
XI The Ointment 143
XII The Third Attempt on the Graal 165
XIII Conversations of the Young Man in Grey 189
XIV The Bible of Mrs. Hippy 205
XV 'To-Night Thou Shalt Be With Me in Paradise' 210
XVI The Search for the House 221
XVII The Marriage of the Living and the Dead 234
XVIII Castra Parvulorum 248
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Charles Williams died in 1945, aged fifty-nine, and I acquired three of his novels recently from a second-hand stall. This is the first one I've read. I found myself thinking of the differences between modern writing and the stories of not-too-long ago, remembering reading Dickens as a young teen and coping fine with long descriptions that would later bore my sons, knowing as I read that "this is a good author" therefore trusting the story to come. Not that Charles Williams writes like Dickens, but his stories do have longer paragraphs and more description than modern fiction. If War in heaven is anything to go by, they also have fascinating plots, up-to-date mysteries-even a Holy Graal-and complex characters with no simple bad guy/good guy denotations. That last point makes me think they may represent better story-telling than many recent Christian novels I've read, though some of the plot-lines make me wonder if they'd be accepted by a modern Christian publishing house. In case you can't tell, I really rather enjoyed reading War in Heaven. The author paints the English town and countryside very convincingly, making me think of home. And he writes the dialog delightfully, with half the truths lying unspoken between the lines. There's a murder on page one, and an absolutely perfect first line that declares the phone's ringing unanswered "since there was no-one in the room but the corpse." And even as mystery piles on mystery, that corpse lies waiting to be identified, the cause of death unknown till the story's end. There's a country pastor, a Duke, a mad archeologist, strange chemists brewing even stranger potions, and innocent book publishers just trying to get on with their lives. There are deaths as well, not just the corpse; crazy chases; magical mists and mysterious strangers. And there are long and fascinating conversations like sitting by the fireside listening in while those with serious opinions opine. It's a zany mad-cap adventure, told slowly and leisurely. And I find myself wondering if, in a world with fewer authors and fewer books, perhaps it was easier to know "this is a good author" and trust the tale to come. Perhaps we need our fast pace and instant action when we read today because the reader's probably not heard of the author before. If we're not caught straight away in the story's net what reason will we have to invest the time? Ah well, that's my two-pennorth. And when I get time, I'll invest it in reading and reviewing another of Charles Williams' books.
I purchased this book for my iPad to read with my NOOK AP and it failed to appear in my NOOK library. I spoke to multiple folks from BN Help and nothing they suggested worked because there is some kind of problem with the ebook itself. I had to get a refund and spend lots of time (wasted) trying to rectify this problem to no avail!! Save yourself lots of trouble and purchase the hard copy or find something else to read altogether!
This is my favorite of Charles Williams' seven novels which include Many Dimensions, Shadows of Ecstasy, Descent into Hell, The Place of the Lion, The Greater Trumps, and All Hallow's Eve. It's not usually the fave of other Williams fans, so I'll say why I like it. Along with Many Dimensions and Shadows of Ecstasy, it's the easiest to read, and I reread it nearly every year the way other readers do Tolkien. Williams dragged most of his interests into this novel: detective stories, the occult, the stages of mysticism, and mythic history--here of Prester John, the Guardian of the Graal. It also illustrates one of Williams' favorite maxims, 'believe and doubt well'. He likes supernatural things to happen to atheists and skeptics, not settled believers, as did C.S. Lewis (That Hideous Strength). While not a dualist, he yet exults in contrasts and following out opposite paths. Williams is anti-gnostic and considers matter substantial and real. Yet the supernatural world is always crowding at the corners, and mortals are always on the brink of being translated into the realm of joy at the heart of the Holy Trinity. Williams' novels always strain against language even as they are carried by it, and Williams often lapses into explanation, as if he were a bystander on the scene and not the narrator. Critics consider this a fault, but in War in Heaven it allows the Archdeacon to move in and out of the action, as it were, the scenes going in and out of focus, from a fog to crystal clarity. Were this a movie, it wouldn't need an alternative ending, it already has two, or three, or five, depending on where you look. And then it ends like a Dr. Who episode, all neat and tidy, everything back where it began. Or is it?
This "supernatural thriller" (according to the blurb on the cover) concerns a sort of a hapless Monty Python-esque rugby scrimmage over the possession of the Holy Grail. Two opposing teams of dry and bloodless English types (a minor Lord, a publishing clerk, an archdeacon, a retired business magnate, etc.) flail away in an attempt to obtain and employ the sacred chalice as they see fit, whether for beneficence or black magic.The story opens, in the offices of a publishing house, with an unlikely and unsolved murder, and its mystery spreads and darkens, like blood on a shag carpet, to include all sorts of cranks and true believers - eventually, even, the spirit of Prester John - in a gray cape. The unedited proof of a book in the office/murder scene contains a paragraph which purports to locate the Holy Grail. The murder mystery then morphs into weird sport as the story centers on the Grail which is apparently as difficult to retain as a greased pig.Williams, I'll concede, is a masterful writer, and can create a scene, spin a tale, and describe a mood. But I can't imagine who would be interested in the spiritual objectives and theological pondering of the novel's characters except for a few nerdy seminary students. For me, the experience was a combination Yawn in Heaven, Dan Brown dressed up in a stylish tuxedo, and a flashback to mandatory religious education classes. Frankly, I couldn't give a damn.
On this, my second foray into the labyrinth of Charles Williams's mind, I find myself still wondering what to make of the man. His work has always been described to me vaguely as "dark" (though he has the saving grace, literarily speaking, of being known as one of the Inklings and that is the principal reason I read him). In The Greater Trumps I noticed an oddly opaque quality to his spirituality, which he of course uses to great effect, building the tension to create a thriller of unusual depth. There is something unpredictable and almost occultic about Williams's imagination; it gives me a sense of ominous dread. The gates of Hell might just prevail against us.War in Heaven, arguably Williams's best-known novel, is a combination of orthodoxy and bold upsets. It almost convinces you at the beginning that it's going to be a murder mystery, until Williams shifts gears abruptly and we have the murderer talking about his crime in the calmest manner imaginable in the next chapter. This is going to be much darker than mere murder, the reader intuits, and so it is. I think Williams is about as far as I'll go in the literature of horror.This is Williams's contribution to the mythology of the Holy Grail (or, as he calls it, the Graal). In his version, the Graal is an object that has accidentally absorbed a great amount of mystical energy by being in the right place at the right time; in itself it is nothing, but it contains incredible power. The action is centered around it, and part of the tension comes from our lack of knowledge regarding what it can really do.Fascinating, too, are the attempts to unmake the Graal (and the idea that the opposite of God is non-being). Some of the villains want to possess it and use its spiritual power in their Satanic rites, while the more farseeing wish only for its utter and complete obliteration. There is an intense scene in which, under attack from dark forces, the physical matter of the Graal actually starts shimmering away¿until prayer shores it up again and it "defends itself." Destruction and annihilation negate Creation and are thus the final goals of the enemies of God.And yes, God. He is here, of course, but then again He isn't. His Graal is very much present, and there are some words of Scripture that the Archdeacon repeats throughout the book, but on the whole Heaven seems oddly silent against the roar of Hell. This adds, of course, to the unsettling tone of the story. If God isn't there to fight for us in the face of this monstrous evil, we are most certainly doomed. Glancing through the short bio on Williams in this copy, I see that he wrote other works, including a theological treatise on the Holy Spirit. Somehow I'm not surprised. He has a fascination¿some, like J. R. R. Tolkien, would say an over-fascination¿with spiritual warfare and the powers and principalities of the unseen realm. I wonder if his treatise is biblically sound? I can deduce some things about his beliefs from his fiction, but how much is his sense of dramatic mood coloring his real beliefs? I would like to read more of his work.In the midst of the element of horror and spiritual warfare, there are tiny pinpricks of humor. And yet they have a profundity behind them too¿like when one of the villains is told, in quite an offhand manner by an apparently ignorant person, that Satanists are just about on the level of the clerk at a brothel. Or when the Archdeacon comments, "I should never dream of relying on people who made a practice of defying God¿in any real sense. They'd be almost bound to lose all sense of proportion" (235¿6). Indeed!I haven't read The Da Vinci Code so I can't venture any comparisons, though from seeing the film I can pick out some similarities. But I think they are superficial at most; based on the samples of Dan' Brown's writing that I've read and the various reviews that have picked him apart, I'd say the main difference between Brown and Williams is that Williams can