Book Reviews
The Rapture: Patrick Harpur
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews Comments Off on The Rapture: Patrick Harpur
The Rapture: Patrick Harpur

Possibly the most compelling and intricately plotted novel I’ve ever read, with an original slant that takes the breath away.

Part One details the progress of an autistic and severely damaged nine-year-old called Mikey, as Ruth, his nurse, struggles to cope with both the demands of her role in his recovery and her own growing attachment to him. Ruth’s story is cut with those of Mikey’s rich and inadequate parents and an adult patient at the Unit where she cares for the boy. Harry believes he’s living in the last degenerate and desolate days before the Rapture, when God will gather the chosen ones and transport them to heaven before destroying the world and creating it anew. Revealed gradually in different ways, the stories of these characters form a seemingly promising and firm foundation which the advent of Part Two shatters like a bombshell.

I put the book down. I wasn’t going to read on – the characters I’d formed an attachment to had been flung into… …well, I’d better not give the plot away. Not only that but events seemed to be taking the story in a direction that didn’t fit with what I’d already read at all, almost as if I’d picked up a different book by mistake. But I wasn’t let off the hook that easily. OK, I muttered darkly (like they do in novels), do your worst Patrick Harpur, and I’ll write it all out in the review. Part One: brilliant characterization, original content, compelling stuff; Part Two: severe error of judgement.

Big mistake that, picking it up again. I couldn’t put the damned thing down, in spite of the fact that it was one of the most disturbing reads I’ve ever experienced. (Although I have to admit that bookwise, I do lead a fairly sheltered life.) Patrick Harpur is adept at keeping the tension at an almost unbearable level, cutting between characters and their stories – both past and present – until you want to scream. I did feel manipulated – not a feeling I like one bit, so I’m pretty much wrecked now and will probably have to read something old and very literary until I recover.

Not that this isn’t literary – it’s a beautifully researched and written genre-hybrid somewhere between psychologist’s casebook, thriller, and an audience with Doris Stokes, or if you’re too young to remember her, then John Edward. But no, that’s not right either.

The end is extraordinary. It’s as if the author opens a door on the darkness to reveal light. Yet even this rare glimpse of beauty is not the end. As the door closes again another opens. It’s the final page and the real story has just begun. Disturbing (I know, I said that before) and thought-provoking. Read it if you dare.

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