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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-12-17 09:35
The Absuridty of Bureaucracy
Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

Well, the one thing that you can say about this book is that it introduced a new phrase into the English language – Catch-22, which basically means that you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. If we are to say that this is its only achievement then I have to say that it is one pretty awesome achievement because it seems to have pretty much become a staple of our language. In fact people who have never even read the book, let alone heard of it, probably know of and use the phrase. The thing is that upon this second reading of this book I have come to realise that it has not only has it coined a much used phrase into our language, but it has also have a significant impact upon modern literature. Okay, I might be wrong, but I would go as far as suggesting that Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf, and even The Simpsons, have been heavily influenced by the book (as well as Kurt Vonnegut, though he was more of a contemporary of Heller).

 

Before I continue I am going to have to warn you that there will be spoilers. If you are reading this review because you want to know whether to read this book or not then I will simply tell you to stop reading this review right now, grab a copy of the book, and read it instead. The fact that it has coined a much used phrase simply goes to prove that it is a part of the canon of modern American literature. Seriously, you don't need a review to convince you to read this book because simply want to find out whether you want to read this book or not is evidence enough that you should read this book.

 

Anyway, now that all of the people that have not read this book are no longer reading this review (I hope) I can now start talking about the content of this book without worrying that it is going to spoil it for anybody. So, if I were to categorise this book I would, without hesitation, refer to it as absurdist literature in the vein of Waiting for Godot. Okay, Samuel Beckett isn't funny, but this book is, but that doesn't necessarily mean that absurdist literature falls into either category – it can be comedy - and in the same vein it can be quite serious. So, while Catch-22 is absolutely hilarious, it uses comedy it expose the hopelessness and meaninglessness of modern society as well as the stupidity of modern bureaucracy.

 

As I was reading this book I resisted the temptation to jump to a couple of other websites Wikipedia and Sparknotes) to see what they had to say about the themes that are evident in this book, namely because I wanted to work it out for myself. I ended up giving into temptation and going to Sparknotes (which is supposed to be the internet version of the Cliff Notes) and discovered that I had indeed worked it out for myself. However, I do have to point out that while Spark Notes is trying to paint itself as this hip and cool place for school students to go to study their highschool texts, when I read the commentary on Catch-22 I have to say that I found it really dry and boring. In fact I reckon they should sack the guy that writes their notes and hire some of the Booklikes reviewers because we would end up creating much better content than the people they are currently paying.

 

So, what is the theme of the book? I can sum it up in one simple work – bureaucracy. In fact the whole premise of the book is the absurdity of the bloated bureaucracy. I remember watching a movie back in the 90s called The Net where everybody was pretty much enslaved to what the computer said. If the computer said something then it had to be true simply because the computer doesn't lie. Well, that may be the case but the computer is also as stupid as the person who is entering the information, and to be honest with you there are a lot of stupid people entering information into computers these days. For example here in Australia they have this register called the Written Off Vehicle Register (WOVR). If a vehicle has been entered into that register then it has basically been written off and is not allowed to be driven on the road. So, if you have this perfectly fine car that has nothing wrong with it, and somebody accidentally enters the rego (license) plate onto the WOVR, then it doesn't matter whether your car is roadworthy or not, as far as anybody is concerned (namely the police) it shouldn't be on the road. Don't even ask me about the hassle you have to go through to get your car removed from that register.

 

The thing is that bureaucracy is as smart as the stupidest clerk in the room, and we see this time and time again. For instance Yossarian moves the bombing line on the map, and all of a sudden everybody believes that the allies have scored a significant victory. Another example is that one of the main characters, who hates flying, but has to clock up a number of hours, is placed on a list of people on a plane, despite the fact that he isn't on the plane. So, when the plane crashes everybody believes that he is dead, despite his protestations to the contrary. It doesn't matter what he says, or does, because is name was on that piece of paper, and because the plane crashed, he is now officially dead.

 

The way time is construed in this book is really interesting. For most of the book the action is set in this almost timeless universe. It is as if nothing changes – at all. In fact we find ourselves constantly jumping backwards and forwards in time to various events. Heller doesn't use the strict timeline that most authors use because he is creating this timeless aspect of it - much like Groundhog Day. Nothing changes and everything goes on as it has gone on before. The only way that we know that we have jumped forward, or backward, in time is the number of missions that the soldiers have to fly. However as we get to the end of the book, and the main characters begin to die off, time suddenly starts to become important and we start to move forward. It is as if things are starting to change, and the world that we had become used to, where everybody goes about their lives, is no longer there. It is as if we are longing to return to that Groundhog Day because everything is familiar. All of the sudden those characters that we have grown to know and love are no longer there and the world, bleak as it was beforehand, becomes ever more bleaker.

 

The final thing that I wish to note about this novel is that it is very character centric. Each of the chapters (with the exception of I believe three) are named after specific characters, and have these characters as the main focus. However, while the focus may be on a specific character we always have Yossarian and his mates intruding into the chapters to remind us that there is cohesion to the novel. The main protagonist is Yosarian, a soldier who no longer wants to go up in a plane, namely because of one disastrous mission that he went on, and is in and out of hospital, looking for ways to be able to get home. This is where Catch-22 comes into the picture because we are told that to get into hospital you must have a fear of something, but if you fear death, which is the basis of most fears, and because it is natural to fear death, then there is nothing wrong with you, so you must fly more missions.

 

It isn't the story that makes this book – there is none – it is the characters, and I have to say that the characters are truly great characters, such as Major Major, who was born with the last name Major, was given the first name Major by his father, and then discovered that he had the middle name Major, and because of a smart-alek computer, was promoted to Major on the first day of joining the army. So, having the title Major Major Major Major he cannot be promoted, or demoted, because there is only one Major Major Major Major in the entire US army and nobody is going to do anything the jeopardise that.

 

Anyway, I could go on, but I think I have written enough, and will leave with only one thing – if you haven't read this book then go and read it because you really don't know what you are missing.

 

For those who are interested, I have written a blog post where I explored some of these ideas much more fully.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1461277918
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review 2013-09-19 23:25
Do the right thing…
The Children Shall Be Blameless - W. Jack Savage

Richard Smith had a life before he lived at St. James Orphanage, St. Paul, Minnesota, but that was too long ago to remember.  Even his first days at the orphanage seem hidden under a strange cloud of forgetfulness.  One thing Richard does remember is that, no matter what, he must not eat the “cornmeal mush” (Ch. 1 and following) the nuns serve for breakfast.  Refusing this meal is against the Orphanage rules, and Richard’s insistence over the years, as he grows up, marks him out as a trouble-maker.  Faced with the harsh bureaucracy of the Catholic Church Richard decides that all talk of God is a fake, but he is determined to do what is really “right” (Ch. 1 and following) by people, regardless of what the church says.  From a very early age ethics, rather than morals, interests this young thinker.  As Richard grows up he changes in some ways, but in many ways he stays the same.  What will the course of his life be?

 

The Children Shall be Blameless is a story about real life, taking a very practical and pragmatic view of things.  It is, however, also a ‘spiritual’ (rather than religious) story asking deeper, philosophic questions about how to live and how we find meaning.  Richard does not claim to have all the answers, and neither does W. Jack Savage, but if you find yourself often wondering  ’what is the right thing to do’ this is the novel  for you.  Savage’s story is interesting and in parts very exciting, and the novel is not in any way preachy.

 

The plot of the novel is divided into basically two parts.  The first part covers Richard’s early life and his adult search for his birth family, and also for a partner and family of his own.  The second part takes a new direction as Richard finds himself involved in the intrigues of crime, though the themes and plot arc of the first part is never lost.  Chapters 1 to 3 cover Richards youth, narrating his growth as an individual.  This is a section of increasing complexity of story and themes.  Chapters 4 to 5 describe Richard’s early adulthood, particularly his time in the army.  This section is unfortunately in large part rather a hiatus, in some ways simply repeating the themes and plot devices of the first section.  It should be pointed out, though, that this ‘dull’ section is a necessary character device which provides the motivational impetus for the next section.  Chapters 6 to 8 narrate Richard’s journey of discovery as he delves into his distant, ‘forgotten’ past.  Chapters 9 and 10 form the midpoint of the novel and are marked by a peak of adventure and danger both in terms of character development and events.  Chapters 11 to 14 involve the new plot direction of crime and adventure.  Much of this section works well, however, in parts we feel Savage is struggling for plot line.  When Richard is knocked unconscious and loses his memory for a third time we feel it is one time too many.  Chapter 15 serves as an epilogue.  This last Chapter is too compressed in narration, with too many events happening all at one time (especially in one short section).  We feel that Savage is rushing to get the story completely finished, and is perhaps under editorial direction concerning page numbers.  This is an unfortunate end to a very good book, but does not spoil the overall effect of the novel, which is for the most part finished anyway.

 

Virtually all of Savage’s characters are likable, though imperfect, and the reader immediately relates to them as ‘real’ people.  Even the ‘bad’ character, Shirley Stanton, is in many ways likable in perhaps a dangerous way.  We are beguiled by her ‘charm’ and double dealing.  Richard is good, tough, practical and pragmatic, and hides a remarkable athletic ability.  His failing is that in many ways he is ignorant of his own motivations, especially where his life’s direction is not going right.  His character has some mystery as he keeps to himself in some circumstances, but is extroverted in others.  Father Allen  Brown, Richard’s mentor, is good, but not rigid in his ethics, as well as practical and loving.  Sargent Bill (William) MCaully, a friend Richard makes in the Army, is very tough, but extremely harsh in his self-judgement and depressed in his attitude to life.  He expresses the kind of emptiness, ennui  and “nihilation”  that the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre so effectively described ( Richard Appignanesi.  Introducing Existentialism: Icon Books, 2001, p. 128-133).  As the story continues Bill evolves into a more happy character.  Shirley Stanton, as we have said, is an ambiguous character, and is certainly an interesting element in the novel.  She could have been the stereotyped, beautiful ‘hussy,’ but she is a much more complex character than that.  This gives her a ‘reality’ which is difficult to achieve in a villain.  As an example of a more minor character, Teddy, a small town reporter, is motivated to do good, determined and capable, but haunted by an alcoholic past.  Savage’s novel is a fictional biography and so has many characters that we only get to look at briefly.  Particularly in the second half of the novel, though, Savage displays a flair for summarized biographies in which he gives us a lively glimpse into some minor character’s lives and personality.  Greg, in Chapter 12, is a good example of this.

 

Savage’s novel is for the most part realistic in style, though in Chapter 10 the plot takes on a macabre, larger-than-life aura, which is spiced with more than a twinge of humour.  This style continues on into Chapter 12, which is very aptly titled “Dickens.”  Dickens is of course the master of slight hyperbole and character study.  Other parts of the story have less surreal humour, and there are occasional moments of bitter irony.  There are quite a few “Oh my Gosh!” moments and surprise chapter endings to keep the reader on the edge of their seat.  I must warn that there is occasional foul language and mild references to free sex.  This is completely in line with the characters and plot circumstances, but it may offend conservative readers.

 

Justice and ethics, in the broadest sense of those words, is the central theme of the novel.  Richard develops a set of personal values throughout the novel, which guide him in his actions.  He is interested, at the most, in guidelines, rather than a set of rules for correct behaviour.   These values include stepping up for the down-trodden (Ch. 1), equality (Ch. 2), tolerance (Ch. 3) and loving the people you find yourself with (Ch. 8).  Most of us want to do our best, what is right, but why is this so important to us?  We could simply let the whole problem slip and say, “Who cares!”  Our need for connection, the next theme to be discussed, seems to propel us towards “goodness” (Ch. 2 and following).  These moments of “goodness” have great meaning to us and repeatedly in the novel we hear that certain events “changed me” (Ch. 1 and following).  Criminal justice makes an appearance in the second half of the book, but the theme is never fully developed.  The issue of criminality is rather dealt with in terms of the personal values we have just been talking about.  None the less we face issues such as: (1) are the law enforcers necessarily good, (2) is justice necessarily always done, and, (3) what is our correct response to crime?

 

The importance of family is the second major theme of The Children Shall Be Blameless.  What is family and why do we seem to need it?  In the 1950’s life seemed simple and we all knew that a family was a mother and a father and two children.  Now we have fractured families, blended families, birth families, adopted families, single parent families and LGBTIQ families.  Indeed, some of these types of families appear in the novel.  In keeping with the ‘spiritual,’ rather than religious, attitude of this novel the approach to families is “non-traditional” (Ch. 7).  We all, even orphans, have families of some kind, but it is tempting to romanticise the notion: we dream of the ‘ideal family’.  Richard very much likes movies, but must learn that while they reflect life, and give us ideas to think about life, they are not life (Ch. 2 and Ch. 8).

 

Bureaucracy appears as a strong minor theme.  We seem to need some rules and organisations, but they in themselves can become the source of injustice.  This injustice is very easily denied and swept under the carpet when it is an embarrassment.  How can we be “spontaneous” (Ch. 2) in the face of bureaucracies?  There is also a sub-theme of the horror of war.  This is not exactly an anti-war novel, but it is also not war affirming.  How should we treat soldiers and veterans?  Can those who do not go to war ever really understand what it is like?

 

Much of the novel is set in the late 1960s and early 1970’s, which allows Savage to capture the role of women right at the Twentieth Century changing points.  Sister Carmella, the Head of the Orphanage, represents the traditional 1950’s view of women in its very conservative role.  Sister Carmella is caring and to a certain extent proactive about helping the children in her care, but we detect a restraint about her that limits her effectiveness.  Indeed the nuns in general support their ‘establishment’ and those who do not fit in with it are ‘bad’.  Far be it from a nun, a woman in a male hierarchy, to question the establishment.  Only Sister Michael Ann (Ch. 2) seems to have any individual spirit and we wonder if such a woman will have a smooth path in this rigid female order.  Overcome by a sense of ennui  after his time in the Army Richard finds himself entering whole heartedly into the ‘free love’ attitude of the Counterculture, but that era was actually a time when the new morality was easily diverted towards using women for physical pleasure, then throwing them away, and vice versa.  Richard wonders why he never finds a permanent partner, but this ignorance is typical of the era.  As the plot moves into the 1980’s the reader finds imperfect, but dynamic women achievers emerging.  Teddy is an overcomer who has got past both “bipolar disorder” (Ch. 7) and alcoholism (Ch. 8) to become a successful small town reporter.  Teddy has a special nose for the news and goes out of her way to get the story.  Her namesake, but no relative, Shirley Smith, is the boss of a regional wing of a drug smuggling operation.  In many ways the reverse of Teddy, she is still a go-ahead, no nonsense operator, also very good at what she does.  Over all Savage’s novel gives an accurate and interesting picture of the history of the role of women and the effects of Feminism.

 

The history of male gender role is also depicted and delved into.  The character of Father Brown represents the type of man who began to emerge in the late 1950’s, and who initiated the Vatican 2 reforms of the Catholic Church.  He is less driven by a sense of ‘authority’ and more interested in interpersonal relationships.  Rigid systems are viewed with doubt, and caring, goodness and development are valued.  This is the kind of thought that later resulted in the development of ‘relational theology’ (Bruce Larson.  No Longer Strangers: An Introduction To Relational Theology: Reprint ed.: Word Book, 1974).  Bill McCaully represents the men before the Father Browns of the world.  A career soldier he is dedicated to the authoritative, male power structure to the hilt.  This partly satisfies him, but only partly.  The whole space of relationships opens up to him like a vast, unsuccessful vacuum, and when he is not occupied by the structure only alcohol will suffice.  Feelings are “unmanly” (Ch. 3).  But Bill will change and evolve as the story progresses.  Richard very much represents the new man: practical and tough, but caring (Robert Bly.  Iron John: Men And Masculinity: Rider, c1990).  Richard is a ‘New Age man’ long before there was a late Twentieth Century New Age Movement.  But, as we have seen, Richard’s relationships with women do not run smoothly.  He must grow and evolve, find his footing in uncertain territory, and this novel is valuable to Twenty-First Century men who, despite all the development in male gender roles that have occurred, still find themselves uncertain as to how to be a good man and a partner.

 

LGBTIQ roles make an appearance in Savage’s novel, although the main character, Richard, is at times at pains to point out that he is not gay.  The traditional derogatory attitude to gay men is clearly depicted early in the book (Ch. 3), but later we see the very minor character of David Gannon, a successful, gay restaurateur, depicted without any animosity (Ch. 4).  A more prominent character is revealed to be gay quite late in the book, however, I will not go into details in order to avoid spoiling the story.  This character allows Savage to display a much more accepting attitude to gay characters.  Lesbian relationships are much more prominent in the book and acceptance is equally prominently displayed.  At first we come across Danika Gusard  and her lover Deputy Donna Mills and “Rosie’s [ … ] a gay bar” (sic.).  Mills is of course a successful woman and this relationship is never depicted in a derogatory way.   Next we see Edie Charboneau, a capable nurse, and her neighbour, Norma Haslett, mutually attracted, and described in a sympathetic way, though at this point the story certainly has overtones of a 1950’s attitude.  Then later in the book we see Edie, once again, and Teddy in a lesbian relationship, this time fully sympathetically depicted, and allowing love to bloom.  This is an important dimension in a novel dealing so much with relationships, and the book would have been very much less without these plot lines.

 

The aged first appear early in the book in the character of Monsignor Poferal.   The Monsignor is represented as having been a vigorous worker, but now ‘tired’ (Ch. 1).  The Monsignor is quickly eclipsed by the young Father Brown.  This is in some cases a realistic picture of the elderly, but hardly flattering to this much ignored and often derided group.  Much later in the novel we come across an aged Bill McCaully.  This time we are presented with a determined, smart man, though he is physically limited.  This aged McCaully is to a certain extent successful in his objective, though unfortunately not completely so.

 

Minorities make very brief appearances.  Very early in the book we meet Maya, a Mexican descent girl who experiences bigotry in the playground (Ch. 1).  Richard stands up for her but parents of the bullies describe her as a “dirty little Mexican” (Ch. 1).  Later, Clete, an African-American soldier, does not need defending and is an amiably described co-conspirator in R&R shenanigans.  African-Americans are positively described as having an astute awareness and practicality.  They are described as having a “seemingly innate ability to stay in and even celebrate the present.”  It should be noted though that the word “innate” may be greeted with ire by some, no matter how well intended.  Later again the Black Rights campaign is touched on as Richard notes and stands against discrimination in his job at UPS (Ch. 5).

 

From the point of view of Structuralism we note the obvious opposing “binary pair” (Boris Wiseman.  Introducing Levi-Strauss and Structural Anthropology:  Icon Books, 200, p. 87, 96 & 149) good/evil, however, this dichotomy takes a decidedly Postmodern slant early on in the novel with the “black and white” (Ch. 3) dichotomy being abandoned and a much more complex view of ethics being adopted.  The young Richard comments to Father Brown that ethical questions are “not always that simple” (Ch. 2).  In terms of character comparison we see the complimentary pair of Richard/Father-Brown, though there is some opposition there with the Father being ‘inside’ the traditional system and Richard firmly out of it.  Sister Carmella and Brown are complimentary in that they are ‘insiders’ who try to rise above the system, but they are opposing in that Carmella is more ineffective in opposing bureaucratic wrong and Brown considerably effective.  Shirley and Teddy at first appear as opposing pairs.  Teddy having come from a difficult background ends up an upright citizen, but Shirley, coming from a similar background, chooses a life of crime.  Later, however, the contrast is nowhere near as clear.  Teddy displays weakness in facing her past, while Shirley experiences extreme doubt about her whole life.  Finally there is a Richard/Shirley dichotomy: he on the side of right and she on the side of crime.  Once again though, as the plot continues this clear spit becomes fuzzy.  Richard chooses to help the person, rather than, for example report crime, and Shirley, as we have just seen, proves to be less firmly set on the side of crime.  In this last case we should note that Bertrand Russell has observed that both strong contributors to society and criminals often spring from the same personality type, the difference being that one has a chance to express their creativity in an approved way, while the other is denied this (Bertrand Russell.  Authority And The Individual: Unwin Hyman, 1977, p. 41-46).

 

Levi-Strauss has proposed that myth is a kind of inherent process which the mind imposes on reality and that deep down we all view the world in this way (Wiseman, p. 135).  Any novel dealing with ‘spiritual’ ideas further lends itself to this kind of interpretation and The Children Shall Be Blameless, despite all its hard headed practicality, can be viewed in this way.

 

Turning to traditional knowledge, therefore, it can be noted that the Tarot card of The High Priestess, also called the “Female Pontiff” (Arthur Edward Waite. The Pictorial Key To The Tarot: U.S. Games Systems, c1971?, p. 13) is important to the opening chapters of Savage’s  novel.  Sallie Nichols (Jung And The Tarot: An Archetypal Journey: Samuel Weiser, 1980)comments of this card that the Priestess represents the idea that “Pure Spirituality is pure nonsense” (Nichols, p. 72).  She further notes that: “She wears the ceremonial robes and trivia of the Church” and holds a “no doubt [ … ] holy book” (Nichols, p. 72), which Waite identifies as the “Tora” (Waite, p. 71).  Yet, of course, the Priestess is a woman, making a mockery of the whole institution.  Nichols further links this card to the medieval Pope Joan myth, which The Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould (Curious Myths Of The Middle Ages: Jupiter Books, 1977, p. 69-73) links to views that the Catholic Church was corrupt and lost to God.  This whole description is very close to the young Richard’s view, and, as we have noted Sister Carmella, while contemplating good is less effective in actually fighting evil.  None of this is to say that Savage views the Church as completely wrong, but rather that taking itself too seriously (rules and bureaucracy) is its downfall (Ch. 1).

 

On the positive side it should be noted that Richard takes from his Catholic Orphanage upbringing a serious concern with the ‘good’.  This is the central topic of the Church and, though he disagrees in detail, this is Richard’s central touchstone.  Nichols comments of the Tarot card The Pope that it represents “man’s striving for connection with the godhead” (Nichols, p. 119).  She further notes that according to Carl Gustav Jung “the religious aims to unite the opposites” (Nichols, p. 119) and that the “prelate .. twins” who kneel before the Pontiff “symbolize par excellence [ … ] the dual aspects inherent in all life” (Nichols, p. 122).  As has been observed above the dichotomy of good/evil tends to undergo a Postmodern collapse in the way in which Jacques Derrida claimed it would (Mary Klages. Literary Theory: A Guide For The Perplexed: Continuum, 2006, p. 59-60) when the center shifts to relationships and ambiguous people, rather than rules.

 

As we have seen, Richard is guided in ‘spiritual’ matters by practicality and pragmatism.  For this reason the Tarot card Temperance applies to the novel as a whole.  Nichols describes the card in this way: “the Angel Temperance blends two opposite aspects or essences, producing life-giving energy” (Nichols, p. 249).  Richard’s dynamism comes from the combination of his very down to earth realism and his desire to act by higher, more ideal values.  Writing further Nichols notes of the card: “The liquid which flows between the two jars [one blue and one red] is neither red nor blue but is pure white, suggesting that it represents a pure essence, perhaps energy” (Nichols, p. 250).  Except for the directionless and possibly depressed period after his time in the army, the adult Richard pursues his life-plan with a great energy and vigour, and the reader is left with the sense that this character truly knows how to ‘live life’ and achieve.  In order to create a successful mix of opposite elements Nichols suggests that: “As in any conflict situation, a creative first step towards resolution is to find an arbiter – someone whose wisdom and understanding can encompass both sides” (Nichols, p. 250).  Again and again throughout the plot Richard refers back to Father Brown, the equally pragmatic spiritual mentor who first befriended him in his youth.  Speaking of encounters with angels Nichols writes: “Such visionary experiences mark dramatic turning points, personal and culturally” (Nichols, p. 250).  As has been noted, we repeatedly hear that particular events “changed me” (Ch. 1 and following).  This is a story of personal growth.  It is, though, also a story of cultural change.  As has been noted above the cultural shift in the roles of women, men and LGBTIQ people is documented in the novel.  Nichols comments on the relationship Temperance has with the astrological sign of Aquarius (Nichols, p. 249).  Nicholas Campion (Zodiac: Enhance Your Life Through Astrology: Alhanbra House, c2000, p. 161) notes of this traditional wisdom sign that: “Its strengths are its inventive genius and its strongly held ideas.”  Very early in the story Sister Carmella notes that the young Richard is “aggravating” because of his firm ethical ideas and wonders who has been tutoring him in these advanced notions.  Writing further of Aquarius Campion notes: “Its weaknesses are its failure to understand its emotions and its refusal to compromise with signs that do not share its vision” (Champion, p. 161).  Father Brown repeatedly observes that Richard is ignorant of, or does not want to face, his true motivations, and, particularly in his early romantic relationships we see an inability to negotiate with, or come to a compromise with, women concerning his need for a family.  Aquarius represents the problems which Temperance must solve.   Pragmatism and temperance, as revealed in the card Temperance, and the sign Aquarius, can indeed be seen as the summing up of Savage’s message.

 

W. Jack Savage’s The Children Shall Be Blameless manages to successfully achieve the difficult task of combining high adventure with ‘spiritual’ insight.  It takes the themes of ethics and family and places them in a story of both personal development and cultural change.  The roles of women, men, LBGTIQ, the aged and minorities are depicted and examined in some depth.  The characters are likable and of enough complexity to be related to as ‘real’ people.  At 410 pages this is probably not a book suited to a weekend read, but those who pick it up will find from the first pages that they have encountered a beguiling and interesting novel.  These qualities will certainly sustain the reader through this longer read.  I am happy to rate this book as 4.5 stars out of 5.

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