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A Meeting by the River by Christopher…

A Meeting by the River

by Christopher Isherwood

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Reading this novella is a reminder how difficult it is to write religiously-based fiction that is still moderately readable for someone who doesn't share the author's beliefs. If you have no sense of irony (Hesse) or a hide like a rhino (Evelyn Waugh), you can just ignore the reader's scepticism, and they will either suspend disbelief or throw the book out of the window; Isherwood isn't quite that far along, and has to keep acknowledging as he goes along that the reader will find most of this rather puzzling or ridiculous. As he never gives us a really good reason not to, this is exactly what we do. After a promising start, with two equally unreliable narrators writing letters to each other and their friends, we get bogged down in a Big Spiritual Question. Isherwood can only get out of it and bring the book, mercifully, to a juddering halt, by means of a very clumsy plot device. Not one of his best. ( )
  thorold | Jul 30, 2011 |

Christopher Isherwood does not shrink from the subject of religion in this novel about brotherly love and spiritual transformation, which reminded me of Rumar Godden's Black Narcissus. Both novels centre on a confrontation between man (or woman, in the case of the nun) and the spirit world. In Black Narcissus, the nun finally acknowledges the impossibility of setting up a nunnery in India, in, A Meeting by the River, the outcome is reversed when Oliver takes his vows to become a Hindu swarmi.

After a long silence, Oliver writes to his elder brother Patrick, requesting that Patrick break the news of his impending vows to their mother in England. Worldly, life loving and innocently corrupt Patrick decides to fly out to India to persuade Oliver to rethink his renunciation of worldly ambition. The meeting is a sudden, intense, psychological upheaval for both of them. Patrick fails to persuade Olly from his chosen path but learns much in the process. Both men are profoundly changed in this complex and intriguing drama played out in Oliver's diary entries and letters written by Patrick to Oliver, to their mother, to his wife and Tom with whom he is having a homosexual affair.

At the end of the novel the brothers admit their love and appreciation for eachother and acknowledge that a new learning process has begun.

Read in 2001 ( )
  cscovil | Nov 23, 2009 |
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Dear Patrick,

I suppose you'll be surprised to hear from me after this long silence - almost as I should be to hear from you. We seem tacitly agreed on one point at least, that there's no sense in exchanging letters just for the sake of chatter.
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