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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, Funny, Poignant, Poetic, May 17 2003
By 
Oddsfish (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
Everyone points out that this little novel is graceful and poetic, and they couldn't be more correct. Throughout the novel, I marveled at the simple beauty of the words and the way they are put together, and it wasn't until later that I realized why. This novel is so meticulously put together that each sentence is written in iambs. I think that fact kind of holds within how wonderful this novel it is. It is a carefully constructed and beautiful portrait of a life persevering, persisting toward sainthood.
Everything about this novel is perfect. Of course, each sentence is perfect, and at times, I would go back a read and reread certain chapters which strike me so profoundly. The relationships held herein, such as Godric's loving relationship with Burcwen, with Mouse, and with Reginald, are subtle complex and really touching. And of course, Godric's own characterization is the biggest strength of the novel, as he moves from the worst of sinners to a godly, compassionate, and humble man.
I can't say enough for this perfect novel. I am sure that I will return again and again to its pages for the humor and warmth and beauty held therein.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE MOVING LIFE STORY OF A VERY HUMAN SAINT, March 13 2002
By 
Larry L. Looney (Austin, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
I have only recently discovered the works of Frederick Buechner -- and I know I have found something precious and rare. In this novel, his telling of the life story of Godric, a saint who lived from c.1065-1170, he paints a vivid, breathing portrait of a man who aspired with all his heart to know, love and serve God, struggling with his humanity every step of the way. Godric's heartfelt prayer to Mary is a touching example of the longing he feels:
'Saint, Mary, virgin dame.
Mother of Jesu Christ, of God his Lamb,
take, shield, and do thy Godric bring
to thee where Christ is King.
Our Lady, maiden, springtime's flower,
deliver Godric from this hour'.
Godric never saw himself as a saint -- even though some people called him that even during his lifetime. He saw his failings and sins as too many to bear that title -- he doubted his own entry into Paradise. During his youth, he behaved as many his age would do -- he lusted after women; he fell victim to his own greed and exploited pilgrims, the poor, and the rich alike; he turned his back on his own family, breaking the hearts of his mother and sister when he left them to roam the world (although his love for his sister Burcwen was so great that, for the remainder of his life, he wore a cross made of two sticks, bound together by locks of her hair). He took up with a would-be privateer and sailed the seas, amassing treasure that he brought back from time to time and stored away on the Holy Isle of Farne -- realizing only later how he had desecrated not only those shores, but his own soul as well by hoarding away the profits he so rudely gained.
When Godric leaves home, he is blessed for his journey by Tom Ball, a family friend. Ball's blessing is prophetic in relation to Godric's eventual life choices. Godric describes Ball's blessing thus: 'He laid his hands on me and blessed my eyes to see God's image deep in every man. He blessed my ears to hear the cry especially of the poor. He blessed my lips to speak no word but Gospel truth. He warned against the Devil and his snares...' Ball speaks to Godric of the choices we are given to make in our lives every day, likening them to doors that we may enter or pass by. At the time, his words touch Godric -- but it is only later, after many life experiences, good and bad, that Godric feels them in his heart and is touched by them to the core.
The book covers many of Godric's adventures, including a pilgrimage to Rome with his mother, on which he is visited by a holy vision of a maiden he calls Gillian, which urges him to follow God's will more completely. He also visits Jerusalem, walking on the same paths that Christ walked, visiting the room in which he was condemned by Pilate -- and bathing in the Jordan, perhaps one of the most life-changing experiences he is given.
He returns to England, and after a few more adventures, he meets with Elric, a hermit devoted to God (seen by many people as a madman), staying with him a while until the old man's death. He sees great holiness within Elric's life. Godric himself settles at a spot in the woods near the river Wear, a place that he had seen in an earlier vision -- it is here that he lives out the rest of his days in almost complete solitude, devoting himself to prayer and reflection, visited only rarely by outsiders. A monk named Reginald is sent to him in order that Godric's story may be written -- and a young man named Perkin becomes his devoted servant, meeting those needs he cannot meet himself. They are the sole witnesses to the end of his life -- and they know him better than any other.
Godric's longing for God -- and his strength at bearing up under what he sees as the weight of his humanity and his sin -- are tenderly and lovingly rendered by Buechner in a prose that is stunning itself in its beauty, in its breathtaking evocation of the very language of the times in which the story takes place. So effective is the style contructed by the author for this book that the reader could well believe the manuscript dated from the era in which it is set. It brings alive the people and places in Godric's life in an illuminating manner.
It is a marvel to read -- and an experience that will entertain as well as enlighten. This is a book that I will return to again and again -- there are many riches to be found within. Buechner is blessed with a gift for telling classic stories -- both from the Bible and other sources. We are blessed that he shares this gift with us.
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5.0 out of 5 stars saintliness & poetry hiding in plain sight, Oct. 13 2002
By 
Penelope Schmitt (Wilmington, NC United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
Two thirds of my first time through Frederic Beuchner's re-imagining of the story of Godric, I realized that I had been reading blank verse for page after beautiful page. The beauty, earthy comedy, and plain-spokenness of the tale were so far uppermost in my mind that my ear didn't even calculate the music it was enjoying at first. Godric-Deric-Godericus-Drick-Godric bawls his story with such epic wrathfulness and lullabies it with such unearthly tenderness that we take it for the beating of our own blood, and not the mostly iambic measure. In the same way, Godric's self-knowledge, his all-too-human grief and shame at the imperfect acts of an imperfect life, and his savage irony at the biographer sent to him by his friend, serve to cast his saintliness into the shadows of a life lived ever in the presence of his own shadow self. But if we read with the eye of an open heart, the gentle, courteous irony is that Godric emerges for us much as the saint his medieval hagiographer, Reginald, would have had us believe him to be. Indeed, perhaps more the saint, because Godric makes us party to all the darker details of his struggle toward God. This is not an expose of the unseemly details behind the gilded sweetness of a medieval golden legend. It is an exigesis of a human heart. We are made, by singing Godric's song with him, raging his rages, freezing with him in the River Wear, to understand things at some level that no 20th century mind easily understands--punishing the flesh in freezing water and chafing irons, immuring oneself in a wood with not but a pair of serpents for companions, leaving off a life of prosperity for a life of privation, setting God above any mental, spiritual, or heart's ease, seeing visions, dreaming dreams, groveling in prayer until one's knees are callused, believing to the very depths of self there is a God and that God shows himself to us as the Blessed Virgin, or as a face made of leaves. The Godric of history is said to have been born about the time of William the Conquerer and to have lived a hundred years or more. The time, then, includes some of the same years readers of the popular Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters will have encountered. It's a holy side trip from the cozy monastic whodunits to explore the isolated woodlands near Durham, and enter more fully the lives of the poor and dispossessed of those hard times. I have just finished reading this brief book a second time. I'm sure I'll read it many more, for love and pity's sake, for God visiting Godric, and for the music.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Earthy, Wonderful..., April 9 2002
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
So much of the literature of the late Twentieth Century was cynical, formulaic and predictable. Some became bestsellers (Lamb's "I Know This Much Is True"). Others won awards (Anything by Rushdie--whose formula is to be so weird that it must be presumed genius). With such fare glutting the market, it seemed that works could only be distinguished by the depth of suffering and lack of communication. Authors became ever more navel-gazing in their thoughts, faux introspection and angst. What was once innovative and new became trite. The art of subtlety was all but lost. It is amazing that any enduing work could spring from such a milieu. Yet several did.
One masterpiece born of the later half of the Twentieth Century was Godric. Godric is the tale of an all too human man. The great theme of Godric is the difference between reality and truth. Godric's triumph is not his own but that of the God who shines through all his weaknesses. Frederick Buechner is a writer of great subtlety and a master of his craft. Filled with earthy wisdom and wonderful truth, Godric is not only one of Buechner's best books--it is one of the greatest books of its time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical story of longing for oneness with God, March 15 2001
By 
Amazon Customer "The Bookie" (Safety Harbor, FL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
Buechner once again shows he is a master, not only of prose, but of understanding what being human is. In spellbinding, rythmic language, he unveils the longings of the heart, as well as the deeds of the flesh, of an ancient hermit. Godric the man is a surprise of contradictions. His overwhelming passion for oneness with God is equalled only by his ability to be profane, and then to punish himself in penitence. He is a surprise, until we read the story of our own lives and find we are much like Buechner's sinner/saint. We want redemption, the touch of mysterious grace, but are too often confronted with evidence of our own humanness. I found myself both pitying Godric, and wanting to be him. Godric the book is beautifully crafted both in style and structure. Buechner's language has a beautiful visual quality. It creates, and leaves, pictures in the mind. The structure of the book is more episodic than chronological, placing stories of Godric's life into a well made mosaic of a saint and sinner.
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4.0 out of 5 stars graceful and poetic., Jan. 2 2001
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
Many other amazon reviewers have described the book as "poetic" and I must agree. Buechner has shaped this story with an economy of words, and it often reads like a superb narrative poem. I read it in one sitting and was captivated by its grace.
A recurring theme in the book is the disparity between what is commonly perceived as "sainthood" or "saintliness" and what the saint, in fact, knows himself to be. Like Paul in the New Testament (see Romans chapter 7 for instance), Godric is continually brought to an awareness of his inner wretchedness as compared with other's perception of him. At one point his scribe Reginald reminds him that the name Godric means "God reigns" but Godric himself feels more affinity with the term "God's wreck." He says, "...Godric's sins have made a wreck of God."
Elsewhere he concludes that "life's a list. Good tilts with ill." Sounds negative? Well, if the sky is blue on your planet, pull up a chair and introduce yourself to LIFE! With those words, Godric is referring to the reality that in many instances evil men prosper while the good suffer privation. Even in the church, the Lord is oftentimes mocked by those who ought to have exalted Him the most. And sincere folks are often given to attributing holiness to those most undeserving. In this book we learn that holiness must, of necessity, be something other than good behavior... it turns out to be nothing other than the unmerited presence of God.
A beautiful book. Well worth reading, and as some have suggested, re-reading many times. I plan to. We see ourselves here.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Both irreverant and reverant, March 15 2000
By 
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
I was struck first by the creativity of Buechner. Godric was a historic figure, but Buechner's fleshing him out and delving into his soul were much more fascinating than the interesting historic facts. Secondly I was stuck by how well the story is crafted, in style and character development and progression of the story. There are scattered gems of commentary on human nature and theology. As other reviewers have pointed out, while part of us is appalled at some of Godric's thoughts and deeds, another part of us recognizes these dark shortcomings in ourselves. A book about humanity, sin and grace. Strangely, though a book that is at times raunchy and violent and appalling, it is also an honest book that can strengthen faith. Godric will be hard to forget.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Both irreverant and reverant, March 15 2000
By 
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
I was struck first by the creativity of Buechner. Godric was a historic figure, but Buechner's fleshing him out and delving into his soul were much more fascinating than the interesting historic facts. Secondly I was stuck by how well the story is crafted, in style and character development and progression of the story. There are scattered gems of commentary on human nature and theology. As other reviewers have pointed out, while part of us is appalled at some of Godric's thoughts and deeds, another part of us recognizes these dark shortcomings in ourselves. A book about humanity, sin and grace. Strangely, though a book that is at times raunchy and violent and appalling, it is also an honest book that can strengthen faith. Godric will be hard to forget.
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5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful. touching, July 21 2001
By 
"rraabfaber" (Albuquerque, NM USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
A beautiful, touching story. Seemingly the tale of a crusty, hardened man, but that crust is merely the thin veil of a truly broken and human heart. One forgets that the story is primarily fiction. Though based on the life of an obscure cleric, it is the story of everyman -- I think most readers will find themselves in the person of Godric.
Buechner is not one of those authors who, when one reads his books says "Oh, this is Buechner." Each of his books is wholly unique and original. I would recommend anything he has written. (NOTE: I see that the long out-of-print Book of Bebb is being re-released in October. Highly recommended! Unlike anything else you've read!)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and disturbing., Aug. 20 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
The lasciviousness and depravity Buechner presents in this medieval monk and the emptiness of his ascetic attempts to discipline his own lusts are enough to disgust the reader -- until the reader begins to recognize that he or she is not that entirely different...
This book is dark and oppressive -- but in such a way that the reader is drawn to it, identifying with the miserable struggles of the title character. It's not the easiest of books to read, and not likely the type of feel-good book you'll want to lounge on the beach and read, but it's certainly a book that should not be missed!
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Godric
Godric by F Buechner (Paperback - Dec 1 1989)
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