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Shadows of Ecstasy [Paperback]

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Item Number 118281  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   272
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.24" Width: 5.06" Height: 0.85"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 14, 2003
Publisher   Regent College Publishing
ISBN  1573831093  
EAN  9781573831093  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Charles Wiilliams had a genius for choosing strange and exciting themes for his novels and making them believable and profoundly suggestive of spiritual truths. Shadows of Ecstasy tells of a mysterious invasion that threatens Europe from Africa. United in a fanatic crusade against death, the spiritual powers of the "Dark Continent" rise up with exultant paganism. Charles Williams-novelist, poet, critic, dramatist and biographer-died in his native England in May, 1945. He had a lively and devoted following there and achieved a considerable reputation as a lecturer on the faculty of Oxford University. T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers and C.S. Lewis were among his distinguished friends and literary sponsors.

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More About Charles Williams

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Charles Walter Stansby Williams (1886 -1945) was a British poet, novelist, playwright, theologian, literary critic, and member of the Inklings. Williams was born in London in 1886, the only son of (Richard) Walter Stansby Williams (1848-1929), a journalist and foreign business correspondent (for an importing firm, writing in French and German), who was a 'regular and valued' contributor of verse, stories and articles to many popular magazines, and his wife Mary, a former milliner, of Islington. He continued to work at the OUP in various positions of increasing responsibility until his death in 1945. One of his greatest editorial achievements was the publication of the first major English-language edition of the works of Soren Kierkegaard. Although chiefly remembered as a novelist, Williams also published poetry, works of literary criticism, theology, drama, history, biography, and a voluminous number of book reviews. Some of his best known novels are War in Heaven (1930), Descent into Hell (1937), and All Hallows' Eve (1945). T. S. Eliot, who wrote an introduction for the last of these, described Williams's novels as "supernatural thrillers" because they explore the sacramental intersection of the physical with the spiritual while also examining the ways in which power, even spiritual power, can corrupt as well as sanctify. All of Williams's fantasies, unlike those of J. R. R. Tolkien and most of those of C. S. Lewis, are set in the contemporary world. Williams has been described byColin Manlove as one of the three main writers of "Christian fantasy" in the twentieth century (the other two being C. S. Lewis and T. F. Powys). More recent writers of fantasy novels with contemporary settings, notably Tim Powers, cite Williams as a model and inspiration. NOVELS: 1930: War in Heaven (London: Victor Gollancz) 1930: Many Dimensions (London: Victor Gollancz) 1931: The Place of the Lion (London: Mundanus) 1932: The Greater Trumps (London: Victor Gollancz) 1933: Shadows of Ecstasy (London: Victor Gollancz) 1937: Descent into Hell (London: Faber & Faber) 1945: All Hallows' Eve (London: Faber & Faber) 1970-72: The Noises That Weren't There. Unfinished. First three chapters published in Mythlore 6 (Autumn 1970), 7 (Winter 1971) and 8 (Winter 1972)."

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Not for apologists only  Feb 20, 2008
I am sorry to see comments to the effect that this novel is less appealing because it is "dated." In some ways, that is what I love about it. Are we so convinced of the irrelevance of past times that there's nothing to be found in a book that takes a snapshot of attitudes and behaviors at an earlier time and place?

That aside, the beauty of this, all of Williams' books, and indeed all the work of the Inklings is that you don't have to be a Christian to admire the authors' respective abilities. (Sometimes I feel as if educated Christians and I are the only ones reading these books.) I have an atheist intellect and a pagan temperament, but relish Williams and Lewis, especially, for their deftness at capturing psychological types; specifically, the human ability to indulge one's personal immaturities while pretending to oneself and others that one has only the loftiest goals and is completely justified. Deep portraits? Perhaps not, but we've all seen people play the games with themselves (and others) that these characters do, caught up in supernatural dramas of one sort or another. That's what's most telling in a way: the knack Williams has for showing how his characters approach even miraculous happenings through their own preconceptions, just as we do with more mundane events every day.

And back to "dated" -- in some ways it's the most delicious part. When the African "heir apparent" makes his identity known, the response of one character -- straight from a reading of Rider Haggard -- is rich with both nostalgia and the ironic reminder that novels like Haggard's were often all even educated people once knew about the non-European world. Williams is a quirky miniaturist, but a skilled and generous-hearted one.

This may not be Williams' "best" to some people's minds, but that's possibly because so much of the plot is ambiguous. The average religiously-inclined writer is all too ready to make it foot-stampingly clear whether his characters are on the side of the angels or the devils. Thirty and more years after my first reading of this book, I still can't decide what I think of the immortal Nigel Considine.
Not his best  Dec 17, 2005
In my opinion, this book is not at all up to the standard of Williams' other novels. There are some interesting characters and ideas but a lot of inconsistencies and rough edges as well. Read it if you have read the other novels and want this one for completeness. The one memorable character for me was Isabel, and her most memorable quote,

"But those that die may be lordlier than you; they are obedient to defeat. Can you live truly till you have been quite defeated? You talk of living by your hurts, but perhaps you avoid the utter hurt that's destruction."
A view of reality to engage  Jul 5, 2005
Reading "Shadows..." I was constantly reminded of the whipsaw changes that are so characteristic of GK Chesterton in, say, "The Man Who Was Thursday" or "The Napoleon of Notting Hill". Rapid, unexpected alterations in perception-as one gets flashing glimpses through a glass no longer quite so darkly of the Christian reality at the core of each man's participation in existence-occur at nearly every turn. There is also a flavor of fellow Inkling CS Lewis's works, with some particular similarities in the setting, mood, and characterizations that one finds in "That Hiddeous Strength". Beyond giving the potential reader the ideas of similarly flavored works, however, it is difficult to unfold the story line in a short review - and probably of no particular value to the potential reader. Williams must be read and his reality swum in to get even a hint of understanding at the driving truths of his Christian faith - namely, that the things of this world all point to a reality beyond that is infinitely more real; and, that actions in this world reverberate into eternity in an actual and final way. I find less of another of the central themes of Williams's life-that of truly substitutionary intervention between men-but there are hints of that stream of understanding as well. All in all, though perhaps not quite as well done as the Chesterton or Lewis mentioned previously, a worthwhile read in the sense that something of worth can be taken from the book and incorporated into living.
Inklings of Eternity failing  Jul 31, 2002
Charles Williams was a member of a group of writers called The Inklings. (There is an excellent record of this group called 'The Inklings' by Humphrey Carpenter.) Another member of the group was JRR Tolkein. It's a while since I have read 'Lord of the Rings' (and I haven't seen the movie) but I did recently reread 'The Hobbit' and Tolkein is an engaging writer but does show a tendency to British parochialism. Another member of the group was CS Lewis and for me he is by far the superior writer - for SF fans see 'Out of the Silent Planet' and 'Voyage to Venus' (aka 'Perelandra'), for fans of children's literature see the Narnia legends, and then there is all the Christian writings, such as the Screwtape books.

Charles Williams in his novels (such as 'Place of the Lion' and the one I am reviewing here) explored less of fantasy (Tolkein) or speculative/philosophical writing (Lewis) but concentrated on the occult/spiritual world. In this novel there is a character who has 'conquered' death by power of the mind and self discipline. There is also a strangely unspecified threat/invasion from Africa (in some ways this perhaps foretells the waves of illegal immigrants) but it is a curiously dissipated threat. The greatest weakness in the book for me are the archetypal characters that are all overwhelmingly British - even the African 'king'. Not only that, but they are archetypal of the thirties when the book was written - hardly to be identified with now.

It is an interesting novel, if a bit slow, but I suspect most of today's readers will find it badly dated in a way that you wouldn't see with Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf or Anna Kavan.


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