Christos Tsiolkas
ARRSE Rating
3 Mushroom Heads
Why did I ask to review this book? A book about the Apostle Paul and his journey or road to Damascus. As someone who has lost the little faith he once had I have no idea; it seemed to be a good idea at the time and that’s the great thing of been a reviewer, you read books you wouldn’t otherwise read.

Paul, or Saul his Jewish name in which he is called in this novel, comes across as a tormented soul, struggling with his sexuality and struggling to come to terms with the fact that he sent a young woman to her death; a death by stoning that opened this somewhat big and confusing novel. The young woman looking at him and shouting those famous words at him.
“He who hath no sin cast the first stone”.

After this bloody and violent opening Saul scurries off to a tavern and gets drunk as well as relieving himself with a whore.

This story is, as I have said a bit confusing. A story from the bible it may be but the language contained is more bar room like than bible like and I will not be giving this book to my mother! You have been warned!!

At times I struggled to know who was narrating different parts of this book. In one chapter Saul was a prisoner held in Rome, how he got there I don’t know it just flipped from one story line to Saul suddenly been held prisoner and finally his dearest friend Timothy visits him. They greet each other with kissing and hugs, the Roman guard finds this behaviour abhorrent, the guard is narrating this chapter, when suddenly the chapter ends. A new chapter begins and Saul is free in a garden in Rome with no explanation as to how or why; and off we go again on another separate chapter which has little or no bearing on the previous chapter.

This novel is not a story, it may well have taken five years of research but the book is long and not written in a way that makes for what I call a damn good read. Yes, at times it entertained and gripped me, but most of the time it was hard work. It was not clear when or why Paul changed from a Jew who persecuted the Christians, ie the woman at the beginning getting stoned, to when he started to believe in this new Saviour. He found the eating of flesh and drinking of blood of a man who had been crucified to be more than strange, he found it savage like, and who could blame him? Even though they were only eating bread and drinking wine.

The cutting of Thomas was another page that in all truthfulness could have been made a lot shorter, but no the author had to go full on with Saul carrying out the act so as Timothy will no longer be “a stranger”. The circumcising nearly being fatal as the blood gushed from the wound, Timothy being restrained in agony the knife being heated up and held against the wound until it was sealed and the blood stemmed. Timothy groaning and whimpering; nasty, it left nothing to the imagination.

The road to Damascus was certainly a journey and Saul/Paul did help in spreading the word. It made me think, but only of the life style that people led 2000 years ago, it did nothing to reignite my faith. In fact I think it may have made me turn even further away from religion, though I doubt this was the author’s intention.

If you are curious about this book I recommend the library.

Thee mushroom heads.

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Gout Man
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