Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: Glittering Images


Glittering Images is the first book in Susan Howatch's Starbridge Series, a fictional account of the Church of England in the 20th Century set in the Salisbury–like diocese of Starbridge. Glittering Images takes place in the 1930s, during the Anglican Church's debate over modernizing English divorce laws.

The Reverend Dr. Charles Ashworth is a polished Cambridge academic who prefers writing about medieval Christian theological disputes to active ministry. His mentor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sends him to secretly investigate the Archbishop's rival, the charismatic Bishop of Starbridge, to determine if the Bishop's alternative household arrangements are as innocent as they appear or a sleazy ménage à trois sure to bring scandal on the Church.

Ashworth's integration into the Bishop's household culminates in his own traumatic breakdown – a major plot transition Howatch handles masterfully, gradually turning the story inside out. Only when Ashworth (with guiding counsel from an astute Anglican monk) untangles his own psycho-spiritual mess is he able to solve the mystery of Starbridge.

Howatch turned to the religious themes explored in Glittering Images after experiencing her own spiritual epiphany. The book is certainly Christian in outlook and subject matter, but in execution bears all the marks of Howatch's earlier pop-fiction family sagas. The fast-turning pages are full of gothic suspense, moody imagery, sex, scandal, and drama. May the rest of the Starbridge Series be this good.


If you would like your review of this book, of any of Susan Howatch's books, listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.


This counts as one of my two 450 to 500 page books for the Chunkster Challenge, as well as one of my choices for the Mt. TBR and Off the Shelf Challenges.


  1. Hi Gilion,

    I haven't read any of the Susan Howatch books from the 'Starbridge' series, although I have recently read and enjoyed a book from the 'St. Benet's Trilogy'.

    I can vividly recall reading and enjoying many of the earlier Howatch stand alone novels, from which her reputation as a consummate author, was gained.

    I am only too sorry that she decided to end her writing career, following her spiritual epiphany, and the penning of her two final series of stories with a religious theme.

    Thanks for a nice review and it is so good to find a fellow blogger with interest in such a complex and talented author.

    This is the link to my post about 'The High Flyer'

    Thanks, Yvonne

  2. Yvonne: It was reading The high Flyer a few years back (pre-blog) that got me interested in reading all of Howatch's religious themed books. Being very German in my reading habits, I wanted to start at the beginning of the Starbridge Series and then read the other two from the St. Benet's Trilogy. It took me a while to gather up all the books and I just recently found a used copy of Glittering Images, so I have finally started my project.

    I will add the link to your review in just a bit.


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