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Howatch, Susan

novels series spiritual devil

(British, 1940– )

Howatch worked in a solicitor's office, until, determined to become a novelist, she moved to New York, and while working as a secretary there wrote a series of successful stories. Her first best-seller was Penmarric (1971), the saga of two Cornish families from Victorian times until the Second World War. In 1979 this was made into a BBC television series. Howatch went on to live in Ireland and America, writing other hugely popular novels such as Cashelmara (1974). She caused media interest, and some controversy, when she decided to spend some of the fortune earned from her books to endow an academic position in theology at Cambridge University. Her spiritual interests are evident, however, in one of her earliest books, The Devil on Lammas Night (1973), an occult thriller dealing with the arrival of the Devil among a community of women.

Her clerical series, set for the most part in and around the fictional West Country town of Starbridge, was written in her flat overlooking Salisbury Cathedral. These novels explore in a vivid and moving way the intense inner life and the crises—sexual, emotional, and psychological—which clergymen can undergo. Mystical Paths (1992) and Glamorous Powers (1988) tell the story of two generations of priests, Jon Darrow and his son Nicolas, who both must wrestle with the psychic gifts which can enhance or destroy their ministry. The novels bring spiritual experience to life in a compelling and accessible way.

Anthony Trollope, Daphne du Maurier  EC

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