cover image Ultimate Prizes

Ultimate Prizes

Susan Howatch. Alfred A. Knopf, $18.95 (387pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58064-7

Neville Aysgarth, an ambitious archdeacon who appeared as a relatively minor character in Glamorous Powers , takes center stage here to narrate the story of his lifetime quest for the ``ultimate prizes.'' WW II has started, and Neville's marriage to Grace, the perfect wife and mother, is cracking under the pressure of being worthy of her perfection. After Grace dies, Neville marries socialite Dido Tallent, but when their first child dies at birth, his faith in both God and his own motives is rocked. In crisis, Neville asks his colleague Jon Darrow (narrator of Glamorous Powers ) for spiritual first aid and, guided by a wise abbot friend of Jon's, is forced to an honest appraisal of himself and his ambition--which has its roots in his early life. He struggles back to spiritual health and eventually emerges a wiser man, more honest and loving toward his family and his flock. This is the third in Howatch's incomparable series about the Church of England in the 20th century; it's a measure of her achievement that, besides telling a fascinating story boldly and well, she illuminates often quite abstruse religious and ecclesiastical questions. Here, Neville's ministry to captured Germans in a local prisoner-of-war camp leads to the discussion of Christian--ethical, moral--behavior during war, a topic that can never be out of date. Readers will await impatiently Scandalous Risks . 40,000 first printing; BOMC alternate. (Oct.)