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Shrine - James Herbert

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Author: James Herbert / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 05 July 2012 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Pan Macmillan / Title: Shrine / ISBN 13: 9780330522625 / ISBN 10: 0330522625 / Alternative EAN: 9780330376228

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    4 Reviews
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      14.05.2007 14:49
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      A fine pot boiler from a master of horror

      There are certain things in life that you know are flawed, but still love. People will look at you and wonder why you rant and rave about something which the vast majority see as average at best. In music it is my love for the obscure indie band ‘David Devant and His Spirit Wife’ and in fiction one example is ‘Shrine’. It is hard to explain why you are able to look past the flaws in something to see its core, but I will give it a mini go in this book review.

      Fenn is your typical local town reporter and he does not think anything exciting is going to happen on his night shift. This can't be further from the truth when he stumbles across a small girl lying in the road. She takes him to a strange tree and turns and speaks one sentence; nothing odd about this? It turns out that Alice is a deaf mute and that her talking is a miracle. Alice becomes increasingly drawn towards the tree and slowly a following of people gather to see her. It seems that she can harness the power of Mary to heal the ill, but is this a divine power for good or evil?

      I think the thing that I loved most about this book was the central concept. Herbert has written about a set of miracles and taken it out of the context of sandal wearing bearded guys up mountains and placed it in modern society. Can you imagine what chaos there would be in today’s media savvy world? If a simple blotch in a watermelon can have 1000s of pilgrims in Mexico, what would several miracle cures do? The fact that Fenn is a reporter means that the media point of view is discussed heavily. This level of cynicism adds a lot to the events that occur throughout the book.

      The other area that I liked was the level of menace. Herbert has written this book as a slow burner and forces you to read a lot of background in between thrilling sections. For some this may prove too cumbersome, but as a fan of meatier novels I found this great. Not only does this research get you better informed, but it also heightens the horror when it does arrive. The book trundles along at a nice pace only to be hit by one of the best written action sequences that I have ever read. The momentum and narrative were perfect for me.

      The quality of Herbert’s writing is rarely a problem and it continues with his characterisations. By concentrating on Fenn, a cynical, unreligious and deeply flawed man we get to view proceedings from a neutral standpoint. This does not stop Herbert from populating the rest of the novel with more extreme viewpoints; be they believers, profiteers or even nutters. Each side of the argument towards miracle or fake is seen from several viewpoints making the book long, but balanced.

      Despite all the good things above there are a number of issues that I noted that could make others not enjoy the book as much as me. Firstly, if you are reading the new edition of the book you may be struck by how dated it feels. It took me 50 pages before I looked at the front and saw that it was written in the early 80s. This means that the book does feel dated and although it covers relevant themes you have to remember as a reader to try and imagine it was before mobiles and the internet.

      I have already mentioned that some people may question the length of the book as it is long for a Herbert title, more reminiscent of a Stephen King length. However, I found the gentle pace matched the story perfectly and that the action set pieces in particular were described well. There is also the issue that the book peaks a little too early, however, for a book to peak it has to have something worthwhile going on. I also feel that one or two of the side characters in the book are unnecessary and do not add anything to the overall plot.

      ‘Shrine’ is a flawed gem of a book that some people will see as average, but I loved. It was a combination of Herbert’s great writing, strong characters and a great central premise. Rather than taking a straight forward approach to religious horror, Herbert has written an interesting ‘modern’ media based approach. I am sure this has been done since, but it left me thinking about the plot days after – and this is the best complement that I can give a book.

      Sammy Recommendation

      Author: James Herbert
      Price: amazon uk - £5.29
      play.com - £5.49

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        15.12.2003 16:16
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        skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. <
        br>< br>< It was a long time ago that I tired of Stephen King and discovered James Herbert the British horror/fantasy writer. I read The Fog, Rats and The Lair, all written in the '70's and which, until followed by The Survivor, made me think that he didn't like people very much. I was wrong and, as he spread his wings and diversified, he was to sell 40 million copies of his books worldwide. James Herbert has often been described as Britain's favourite horror writer and I would not argue with that. I have chosen as an introduction to Herbert a book which was written in 1983, Shrine. When I took it off my shelf to skim through for this review I once more found myself deep within it, which did rather put back my dooyoo offering for Mauri and Calypte. Late one night Brighton Evening Courier reporter, Gerry Fenn, almost runs down eleven year old Alice Pagett. Catching up with her on foot he finds her kneeling entranced in a field adjoining the graveyard of the parish church and takes her to the safety of the vicarage where he meets parish priest, Father Hagan. Alice has seen a vision of the Virgin Mary and Gerry and the good father are about to become part of a series of events which will bring chaos, mystery, religious fervour and gothic horror to the quiet village. When the devout Alice- formerly deaf and mute - is cured and others healed soon after, even the caution of the Catholic Church cannot prevent Banfield being considered a new Lourdes and the good, the desperate and the greedy join the media in the ensuing circus. Whilst Father Hagan is deeply affected by and fearful of the apparent miracles, his Bishop is wary and asks the enigmatic Monsignor Delgard to assist him in investigating Alice's new powers, while attempting to keep her isolated from an adoring public as hysteria mounts. Meanwhile James Herbert introduces us to the good people of Banfield, exposing to the reader the ba
        seness and corruption behind the respected and not so respected public faces. It was this habit which made me think from reading his first books that his attitude towards people tended towards the cynical. In fact the misdeeds of his less likeable characters give us additional threads within the story, further episodes to enhance then satisfy our curiosity and a reason to relate to the more worthy heroes and heroines whose fortunes we are following within his tale. It also provides a tempering of shock should they approach a sticky end. Beside Alice's healing of the grateful sick and handicapped incidents of a more sinister nature follow, beginning with a disastrous accident which James Herbert gives to us in graphic and shocking detail. As Alice leaves her refuge and appears on the scene we are left to ponder whether she is a medium for rescue and succour or could she be an unwitting force for destruction? Do Alice's merciful gifts originate from sainthood or is there a hidden price to be paid? Together Gerry and the Monsignor begin to doubt the divinity of Alice's healing gifts and while delving into the history of the church they discover medieval horror, depravity and appalling retribution. Could there be a link between dark antiquity and present day "miracles" and are the fortunate events for some and the horrors visited on others linked? Whatever the answer there is foreboding in the air and time is running out. As Banfield prepares for a celebratory mass with the eyes of the world upon it the village worthies, seeing only commercial gain, seem unaware of oppression building whilst the religious desire of others makes them heedless of all but the forthcoming ritual and hoped-for further miracles. Meanwhile the suspense rises for our reporter, now deeply concerned although unable to guess what the outcome may be. I will tell you no more except that James Herbert is a master of his gen
        re and creat es an atmosphere of cimmerian depth, yet somehow managing to keep this side of belief despite awesome happenings. We will not see devils or demons and the truly apocalyptic ending is not the oft-written slogging it out of good and evil. Rather we have the conclusion to a dark tale of deep psychic power and a need for awful revenge. I offer Shrine as a good introduction to the genre and an author who gives the reader plenty of good plot to follow, the unwinding of a mystery and a good dollop of shock/horror. Beware though his ability to detail harrowing death. "THIS OPINION IS PART OF THE BOOK CHALLENGE-AN INTRODUCTION TO....If you had to persuade someone how good an author can be which book of theirs would you recommend as a first time read? Alternatively if you had to encourage a friend to read a particular genre (Sci- fi, Fantasy, Crime fiction etc.) or style (eg poetry) that they had always avoided which book would you recommend. If you decide to take part please include Book Challenge- AN INTRODUCTION TO...in your title and include this explanation paragraph either at the beginning or end on the text if you want more information contact the Book category guides Mauri or Calypte"

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          02.07.2003 00:57
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          Alice Pagett is an ordinary 11 year old living in the village of Banfield who likes nothing more that helping her mother clean the local church, she's definately skipping along with ribbons in her pigtails and those little buckle shoes your mum always made you wear. Gerry Fenn, journalist and hard drinker, another of those characters that Herbert revels in. He's driving home from another boring assignment for the Brighton Courier. Passing through Banfield a small child runs in front of his car, he chases after her in case she is injured. He finds Alice in front of an old oak in a field next to the church of St Joseph's. When he reaches her all she says is 'She's so beautiful' Funny thing to say about a tree you might think, but you see Alice had been a deaf-mute since she was 4 after having mumps. But she doesn't lose her voice again and insists she saw a lady in white who was the Immaculate Conception. Of course Fenn being a journo couldn't possibly let this go and the Pagett phenomenon goes global. Before we go further into the book I'm going to introduce other key players in the book. Father Hagan - the priest at St Joseph's, dismayed by what has happened to his parish, he appears to be wasting away. Strangely he seems to be afraid of Alice. Monsignor Delgard - sent by the Diocese to assist Father Hagan. Along with Fenn he starts to believe something is not quite right with Alice and her miracles. Other characters include: Sue - Fenns 'girlfriend', drawn into the miracles, saddened at Fenns refusal to accept the miracles at face-value. Southworth - head of the parish council who is only interested in the financial implications. Mystery chap - appears infrequently through the book, he is obviously going to play a part but what is it? There are other who appear throughout the book, but are more for padding. So there we have some n
          ice people and nice miracles. But everything's not fine and dandy in the village of Banfield. The church appears to be losing its purity, people are becoming afraid of Alice but the miracles keep on coming as do the crowds of believers. But after the death of Father Hagan Alice keeps drawing desecrated pictures of the Virgin Mary and appears to be talking in a centuries old dialect. Fenn and Delgard start researching the history of Banfield and St Josephs and start unearthing some 'unearthly' history. But how is a 14th century nun connected to Alice Pagett? A descendant perhaps? Passing on miraculous powers? Or could it be something more sinister? A longing for revenge or am I just teasing you? Well of course being a typical Herbert novel it all comes to a head in a big spectacular, nail biting ending. He seems to be very fond of these but as usual its a real could go this way, could go that way, you know what I mean! ButI am definitely not giving you any hints to the ending of this one!! The characters in this book are so well written its fantastic. Seeing the change in Alice is done subtly and perfectly. Fenn is your archetypal Herbert character, tough-nosed, sceptical, hard-drinking and having that certain something that women love' Its like having a comfortable friendly familiar uncle around the place. Father just exudes pity and you just want to give him a big hug and tell him everything will work out just fine! Too often the term 'page-turner' is bandied about, but it is one that I can use in complete confidence with this book. The story is gripping and holds your attention tighter than an episode of 24. His writing is excellent and even though the Roman Catholic features heavily it doesn't get steeped in dogma and doesn't turn into a moral story. My only beef would be with James Herbert's main male characters. (Has there been a main female character yet?) But this is probably a gener
          al issue. David Ash, Gerry Fenn, Kelso and the chap from Sepulchre (Marty Whitehouse?) Are all based along the same lines, hard men, sceptical, women love them and they all love a bit of the hard stuff! Is Herbert writing his characters based on the man who wishes he was? A bit of displacement? He also avoids the use of catalysts in this book, by that I mean his habit of using another character to jolly along the story, i.e. Hobbs the medium in Survivor, or Edith in Haunted. Very refreshing! And yes there is a sex scene, but yet again I found myself cringing, he just doesnt write them well, slowly getting over his obvious embaressment of them but still not perfect. (Imagine my surprise then when I read 'Once', ooh steaminess abounds!!) But don't just listen to me, I hope I've given you a bit of an insight, but believe me you'd be daft to pass this by on the library shelves.!

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            04.02.2001 18:43
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            This was one of the first Herbert novels I read and as such my memory of it is pretty sketchy, however, I do remember thinking how different it was from The Rats which was my only other Herbert novel up till that point. This story was more of a ghost story as opposed to the horror element in The Rats, luckily I’m into both elements so I knew then that I’d found an author whose work was going to interest me. Anyway, the story itself. A liitle deaf mute girl called Alice has a vision of the Virgin Mary and is miraculously cured, this leads to the area where she had this vision (beneath an ancient oak tree) becoming a shrine. However, although the church welcomes this as it helps them re-establish peoples faith they are still sceptical of the validity of the claims, they therefore appoint a cynical local reporter to document the events. This reporter is called Gerry Fen and it is he who becomes the central character of the story (albeit it alongside Alice) As is the usual way with Herberts plots the story builds up to a climax with first of all several miraculous recoveries which turns the area into a sort of Lourdes, however, things then start to turn mysterious with several unexplained incidents occurring. Most of which are in some way linked to Alice. Fenn therefore investigates the background of the village and turns up rumours of the occult in the villages dark and distant past. These are obviously interwoven with what is happening now and the story escalates from there. Rather than spoil it for you I will only say the story takes on a much more sinister feeling the further you get into it and turns into a very scary tale. This is definitely a must for Herbert fans who have not yet read it and one which I would confidently give to a Herbert “virgin” as I am sure it will convince them to read more … after all it worked for me !!!

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