Now we are off to the Philippines today, well you might think there is no surprise now – we’re off to the Philippines. You would be wrong however as you have not been to the country like this before –
The story in a nutshell –
A missionary priest called Julian Tremayne is working in the Philippines. He spends time in prison for the murder of a local military man and then himself dies mysteriously.
Thirty years after his death he is a revered man and people are calling for him to be made a saint. He is now almost a cult-like figure. But is everything as it seems?
Philip Seward is the man sent out on behalf of Julian’s family to investigate.
What he enters is a world of trouble.
Setting of the Philippines –
Philip enters the underbelly of Filipino society. He is the ‘innocent foreigner abroad’ and the novel is an exploration of what he finds and what he thinks about events and people he encounters. This is an interesting angle and one which adds much to the detail of the book – the innocent foreigner abroad on an investigative journey is ripe for finding detail and experiences not found elsewhere.
The Breath of Night is an extraordinary and vivid account of the wealth, extreme poverty, corruption and oppression of a country and its people.
It is a tale of beauty and horror interwoven with the insightful yet disturbing letters of Julian who writes homes to his family and via his letters reveals the changes of a country in turmoil, his faith, and of even the beauty of a country that he starts to see change before his very eyes. Like the picture of Dorian Gray, the beautiful colours and the paint flakes leaving behind something quite changed –
He describes where he is in – Manila –
Two rows of Spanish colonial houses all cracked white stucco and fretwork shutters, half hidden by thick-boughed frangipani and acacia trees, plus two small general stores, occupy the north and south. In the centre are a statue of the national hero, Jose Rizal, four weather-stone benches and a dried up water trough.
Calm and picturesque soon becomes dangerous quite soon and the tone of his letters changes in even describing to his parents the views and the weather never mind the political transformation of the country –
Roofs, doors, shutters, had been flung about the square. The old colonial houses had had their balconies and their verandas torn off, and stucco facades shattered by the uprooted trees. At the centre, the Rizal statue had been turned into a modernist war memorial.
Breath of Night is a very sensitive interpretation of religious feelings and the interplay of reality and fiction. it shows evocative sort of beauty against a backdrop of lust and heat. You will be more than transported by this novel – you will feel the heat on your face and the beads of perspiration through sweltering temperatures and deep rooted fear. Julian himself starts to question the very reason he is there in the first place – his faith –
More than ever before I’ve been forced to question the nature of my role. On the one hand, the brutal repression while I was away shows that, if nothing else, my presence offers some protection against the excesses of the regime.
But he fears that his words are acting as barrier between the people and their god and that he is effectively doing them a disservice. He starts to question his own faith –
For too long the Church has comforted – some would say anaesthetised- the poor with the claim that they’ll receive their reward in heaven.
Beautifully written yet confrontational
Powerful yet captures you in its ever- tightening grip
This is a trip to the Philippines with a difference and one you will never forget.