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Book review: <i>The Troublesome Offspring Of Cardinal Guzman</i> by Louis de Berniéres

the cover of the book

Mildly disappointing, but only compared to the insanely high standards I have come to expect from Mr de Berniéres and his extreme awesomeness as an author.

The story

Cardinal Guzman is not the best guy around, not even by normal person standards. And the man is a Cardinal! So as you might expect, Cardinal Guzman has a lot of repressed guilt and a bit of self loathing lurking around his subconscious. Because he's not an inherently evil man or anything. And the self loathing starts to manifest itself in the form of demonic appearances and extreme stomach cramps. The Cardinal cannot go on this way, and isn't improving in spite of the tender ministrations of his mistress (oops!) or the affections of his illegitimate son (double oops!). So the cardinal decides that drastic action is the only way to save his soul.

Cardinal Guzman means well, but upon collecting data relating to the state of Catholicism in the nation, the Cardinal is deeply disturbed. Reports came thick and fast about the bastardisation of the Catholic faith, with tales of renegade priests preaching free love, happiness, and a guilt-free existence. The Cardinal sends out a man of the church to right the wrongs of the peasants.

Cochadebajo de los Gatos is right where de Berniéres left it in The War For Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts and Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord, and all our old favourites are still there. However, Cardinal Guzman's crusade is a threat to how they live their lives, and even their lives themselves. When the village becomes aware of the threat to their existence, drastic action must be taken to protect themselves...

The style

It was de Berniéres, and it was good. Specifics: The perspective was your classic third person semi-omniscient focusing on different people at different times. Beautifully timed and paced, The Troublesome Offspring Of Cardinal Guzman switches effortlessly between characters, managing to retain a good pace while not overwhelming the reader with Spanish names and people. The characters are all incredibly well done; however if you hadn't read at least one of the two previous books in this series you might find the quantity of character development of those within the Cochadebajo de los Gatos lacking - Louis de Berniéres spent so much time delving into their personalities in his other novels that he focused more on his new characters on this one - which is reasonable, that's just a warning.

The storyline is cunningly created and twisty as is the style of Louis de Berniéres, with coincidences and slow wanderings toward disaster and nail-biting suspense within the story. de Berniéres has this ability to make you feel like you are there, watching, completely involved and invested in the plot. I don't cry much, in general, but de Berniéres can make tears spring to my eyes with the least provocation. The guy has skills.

On the downside, I didn't love it as much as I loved The War For Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts. I think the main reason was because while I felt that the ideas behind the story were very strong, as usual - Guzman's comments about belief, religion and beaurocracy just to name a couple - they were a bit... tired. I felt like I knew where it was going, I could see the direction and the plot and he was sort of doing reruns of previous themes instead of working in more new stuff. When I read The War For Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, I found all the social commentary and issues intriguing and new, and just gutsed the whole book down fast. The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman took me a little longer, and didn't keep me quite so involved. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed it. I just didn't enjoy it as much as some of his other stuff. I would still recommend it though.

Who is this book for?

This book is for people who want a little thoughtfulness with their reading material, written in an engaging way. The issues are masterfully presented and for lovers of contemporary literature, it doesn't get much better written than by Louis de Berniéres. I reckon.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Louis de Berniéres's other books. I can't rate him highly enough.

In short

Title: The Troublesome Offspring Of Cardinal Guzman
Author: Louis de Berniéres
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 0749398574
Year published: 1992
Pages: 388
Genre(s): Contemporary Literature
Review Type: