Friday, August 12, 2011

Jubilate fails to grip

I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Arditti's Easter - so much so that I laughed aloud at the first page and exclaimed with horrified delight at another. I recommended it and lent it to people. So when a friend recommended Jubilate by the same author I bought it with a click (I know - one-click ordering is very dangerous for me) and looked forward to reading it on holiday.

Sadly, the experience didn't repeat itself. I found myself quite readily putting it aside for a chat, or dozing in the sun with it on my lap. I found that by the end of the book I still had no feel for the main characters, and the other pilgrims were characterless. I didn't even feel the need to flip back to check which was which, as I had at the beginning of Easter (and a list of dramatis personae would have perhaps helped in Jubilate).

The religious experiences described didn't really do it for me either. Gillian's faith was a pale shadow in the background, and Vincent's glimpses of the divine lacked, I felt, any conviction. I wondered if the two points of view and the sequence of chapters somehow diluted the effect of the narration - Gillian's story begins at the end of a pilgrimage to Lourdes and Vincent's at the beginning - because the two stories were too similar. There wasn't enough revelation when each narrator came to key events, so that the technique that worked so well in Easter seemed to fall short in Jubilate.

All that said, I've learned enough about a pilgrimage to Lourdes to ensure that I never think of going on one - in a way it comes across as a festering blight on the face of the country - and I did finish the book. But I can't agree with Peter Stanford writing in The Guardian  when he talks about the urgency of a great romance, and the metaphysical debate didn't exercise the grey cells much, I'm afraid. Maybe it was all a bit too close to reality, maybe it lacked the exaggeration that made Easter such a show-stealer. In fact, what I recall now is a sense that this is a dutiful record of a love story on a pilgrimage, but one that lacks passion of any kind. It might almost have been real - and sometimes that's not enough.


  1. I think "The Enemy of the Good" is a better novel than either Easter (which I also enjoyed) or Jubilate.

    None of them is the novel that I hope he writes one day.

  2. I wish you could share your learning of a pilgrimage to Lourdes which makes you never to go on one. As with your reference to a festering blight on the country I find distasteful.
    You shouldn`t base your experience on just reading without actually experiencing the actual place. I have been to Lourdes many times and I can guarantee that is light years away from being a `festering blight`.

  3. Danny, I'm simply reviewing a book here, from my own reading of it. I'm glad to hear that your experience of Lourdes is other than depicted therein. I wonder if you've read 'Jubilate'?

  4. The book disappointed after "Easter". I agree that it put me off going anywhere near Lourdes! I'll maybe have a go at Kelvin's suggestion, although I suffer from the same problem over one click to buy!