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Download Tongues of Flame epub

by Tim Parks

Focuses on fifteen-year-old Richard Bowen, son of a suburban English vicar, as he discovers that his family and community have become gripped by a religious fervor that erupts into a hysterical witchhunt
Download Tongues of Flame epub
ISBN: 0394552997
ISBN13: 978-0394552996
Category: Literature
Author: Tim Parks
Language: English
Publisher: Grove Pr; 1st American ed edition (January 1, 1987)
Pages: 136 pages
ePUB size: 1644 kb
FB2 size: 1577 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 587
Other Formats: mbr rtf mbr rtf

Story is set in England in 1968. 15 year old Richard Bowen is wrestling with good and evil as he moves thru adolescence. His Father is the minister of a peaceful suburban parish. Donald Ronaldson, a new 30-something curate who hails from South Africa, introduces religious fanaticism to this peaceful parish.

Richard's older brother Adrian, who was born with a club foot, is Richard's Father's favorite - he's the brightest child in the family and Father hoped he would aspire to attend Oxford. Instead, Adrian rebels against religion and his family and adopts long hair, rock music, art, drinking, pre-marital sex and drugs as his beacon forward.

Richard timidly watches his family, his church and his community get consumed with the fanatical religious movement - he rarely takes sides, he's confused about right from wrong (Lust? Premarital sex? Is there a God? Can you go to Hell?).

Ronaldson, Richard's Mother and Richard's sister corner Adrian after they learn (or better stated that they believe) that Adrian is responsible for hedonistic activities. They attempt to perform an exorcism. Richard is watching on...

"Shivering outside, I let all this happen; I let it happen and I prayed on and on to whoever it was I was praying to, I prayed, `Don't let this happen, don't! Don't let them change him.' But it went on. Until at last I began to realize now what I should have realized all along, that if they changed Adrian, if he became one of them, I would have to change too. I would. Because I couldn't resist them on my own. And I realized that it was because of Adrian, because of his example and his courage and how I loved and at the same time hated him, that I was able to take the position I did, my neutral position in the family, in the middle, or rather aside, and just waiting quietly for the day I could leave all this and be myself. So my own fate really hung on his, hung on what it would mean if Adrian was able to be changed and broken. Because then they would change me. I turned back to the window, shivering and hugging myself, and I watched silent. They were still chanting on, round and round. I should interrupt somehow, I thought. I should, I must do something, something that would sway that ugly battle. I mustn't simply be a spectator, because it was my battle too. Obviously it was. But I couldn't do anything. I was paralyzed again. Because I had never never never taken a decisive part in anything, or shown my real self to anyone."

This short 140-page novel keeps you turning pages as you get fully absorbed in the characters and the expectation that something foreboding is on its way. Parks won the Somerset Maugham Award for writers under 35 for this novel and he was certainly deserving.
I feel sort of cheated by this book, which supposedly looked at a 'believable portrayal of male puberty' as quoted on the back of the book. I mean, in essence, it does follow a family of man and wife with three children, but the two teenage boys seem a little caricature. The first, Adrian, the rebellious, sex-craved boy who continually questions his father knowing it gets the Vicar riled up. The main protagonist, Ricky, the other boy, is the quiet, shy, reserved type who never really has an impact.

And that is the problem really. Apart from the very end, and I mean the very end of the book, Ricky isn't really there apart from the device that over hears everything that goes on. You could quite easily take him out the story and it would still be the same.

The religious nature of this book, quite easily comparable to Philip Pullman, leaves me even more sceptical about religion, and that Parks uses subtle sarcasm and loose humour to bring this wild family alive. For they really are a wild family that don't realise that their religious doctrine is actually a form of child abuse - clearly seen in the final few pages of the book.

The Server (a much later Tim Parks novel that follows religion) is better told and better structured. But with the author's upbringing, I have no doubt that some of these events are actually true, despite the disclaimer at the front of the book stating otherwise.
Tim Parks produced some memorable characters in "Tongues Of Flame" and his descriptions of the unwinding of relationships in a family under pressure with three teenagers torn between sex, religion and rock 'n roll, were well crafted. Overall, however, I felt the ploting was rather strained. Perhaps it would have been better either as a short story or a full length novel - at a mere 180 pages, Parks didn't have the space to really build a powerful and compelling denouement.
This was my first Tim Parks' novel, and led me to read other works by him. His characters are dimensional and intriguing. This novel also challenges the notion of "cult" and religion in an interesting fashion. Definitely a great, quick read.