Requiem Mass Market Paperback – Jun 27 2006
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"The city is like a fractured mirror: you can see yourself, but you get a shock at how it comes back to you. "The city is contemporary Jerusalem, described in all the richness of its walls and gardens, shrines and religions--ancient dust, olive trees, the smell of falafel oil and balsam, mysterious writing on crumbling stones. The man who comes to find (or lose) himself there is a schoolteacher from England who quit his job in the aftermath of his wife's tragic death and a fuss about his possible involvement with a student. Graham Joyce weaves an absorbing tale about friends and lovers tugging at the delicate strands of ancient mysteries with both Islamic mythological and Christian religious elements. Requiem has ghosts, demons ("djinns"), doppelgängers, crazy people, and passionate main characters; it is a well-constructed dark novel, only flawed slightly by a listless ending. Winner of the 1996 British Fantasy Award for Best Novel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Though his Dark Sister (1992) won a British Fantasy Award for Best Novel, Joyce is only now making his Stateside debut with this impressive novel that was first published last year in Britain. Here, Joyce takes full advantage of the ready-to-hand exoticism of modern Jerusalem, using the city's density as a catalyst for an absorbing fantasy that's grounded in strong characterization. Fleeing his (only semi-explained) guilt after the senseless, accidental death of his wife, Tom Webster quits teaching and visits his longtime friend and ex-lover, Sharon, in Jerusalem. Soon, he is haunted by hallucinations?or perhaps they're apparitions or djinnis?and is entrusted with some Dead Sea scroll fragments. Joyce's Jerusalem is suffused with squalor and splendor, religious meaning and political struggle, as Tom tries to figure out what a host of emissaries from both the natural and the supernatural realms are trying to tell him about the world and about himself. The conclusion leans a bit too much on the purely personal, as if all the weighty history and symbolism of Judaism, Christianity and Islam were meaningful only as the key to one man's soul. Still, this is high-quality fantasy that at last puts Joyce on the American map.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The story begins when Kate Webster is killed as she returns home from church. He husband, Tom, is stricken with both intense grief and, though blameless, intense guilt. Although he attempts to carry on with his teaching, he finds each day harder and harder; he eventually quits and, instead, plans an overdue trip to Jeruselem where he visits his long time friend and confidante, Sharon.
At first, Tom is entranced with Jeruselem. Everything there seems to hold some spiritual significance, and, for Tom, at least, Jerusalem is a city of myth as well as religion. But Tom came to Jerusalem to escape the torment of Kate's death and, instead of escape, he finds that the hauntings he experienced in England have only intensified in Jerusalem. Tom can't decide if he is becoming the victim of an apparition or the victim of insanity. But there is one thing he knows for sure: the apparitions that torment him in the Holy City are always of the female gender.
When a chance meeting places fragments of a Dead Sea Scroll in Tom's hands he is, of course, intrigued. An exact translation is an impossibility, of course, but Tom does locate a demon-plagued scholar who attributes the scroll to none other than Mary Magdalene and informs Tom that it contains an alternate story of Christ's crucifixtion.
Despite the above, "Requiem" is definitely not a mystery. It is, rather, a study of the effects of guilt on the human psyche, for Tom Webster is a man riddled with guilt...both deserved and undeserved. I think readers who felt dissatisfaction with the Dead Sea Scroll subplot are missing the fact that it is simply an externalization of Tom's guilt processes and his repressed anger and ambivalence towards women and the power they can hold over men. It is a thread that ties the book into one seamless whole. I'm not even sure that "guilt" and "anger" are precise enough words to use when describing this book. Surely guilt and anger play a part in Tom Webster's agony, but so do many other, more subtle, emotions, for Tom Webster is a man who sees the world in many shades of grey, rather than in black and white.
"Requiem" is an richly intense book, peopled with intense characters. I think it is to the author's credit that much of what Tom experiences is never spelled out, but is left to the reader's own individual interpretation instead.
If you're looking for something different, "Requiem" might fill the bill. If you're looking for something intense, it would be a good choice as well. Despite it's dark intensity, "Requiem" is not a long or involved book and it reads quite quickly. While I wouldn't want to read this kind of book on a daily basis, I enjoyed it as a change of pace. Joyce definitely deserves a wider audience than he has so far enjoyed. "Requiem" should help him find it.
There is little to critique about this novel. The story was engaging, the characters very real and fully dimensional. I think it was because of the the realist portrayl of the characters that makes this book so powerful. Because the people feel real, it is easier to believe the events occurring in the novel may be real. Who knows perhaps there is something to the Magdalene theory...I already believe we are all haunted by our own personal djinn! As a previous reviewer had mentioned, Joyce's style is very similar to Johnathan Carroll's. If you enjoy Carroll you may very well enjoy Joyce's writing. If you haven't read anything by Carroll, do it! Try From the the Teeth of Angels...or the Panic Hand.
Requiem is about guilt. The trick is to determine exactly what guilt. Tom's wife Katie dies in a freak traffic accident--her car is smashed by a fallen tree--so Tom quits his job as a teacher and travels to Jerusalem. Although it's been six months, he still has strange feelings about his wife's death, much more than just the natural ones of mourning and loss. There's also something not quite right at the school, helping him make the decision to leave for awhile. In Jerusalem, he connects with an old college friend, Sharon, who is working for a women's counseling center. Along the way he befriends an old man who runs a hostel. While exploring the old city, something he had always wanted to do, and feels guilty about doing it without Katie, especially after her death, he finds himself adrift, confronted by Arab vagabonds, and this strange old woman who scratches out a message in the sandstone walls with her fingernail.
The similarities with Carroll are many. Not only do scenes have that slightly unreal feeling, while remaining so detailed and close to home, the characters are vivid and intriguing, the narrator is questionable in his sanity, and then there's the ancient manuscript that might be a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls find that could change our concept of the gospel as it is now known. In both large and small items, the concept of truth and honesty is ambiguous.
I liked Requiem, and almost wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it, to see if there were things that I missed as I sped through the book, caught up in the world and the fine writing. I'm searching for Joyce's other novels, delighted to find another writer who appeals to that same sense of mystery and wonder that has caught me up in the works of Davies, Carroll, and Banks.