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Descent into Hell: A Novel Paperback – 1980
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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In Charles Williams's novel Descent into Hell, Hell turns out to be nothing other than a refusal to see things as they really are. Arguably his finest novel, the "descent" in the title happens to an ordinary (if extraordinarily selfish) historian named Wentworth, whose daily choices to cheat on the truth slowly but surely lead him into a terrifying state of isolation and egotism. Heaven, by contrast, is increasingly inhabited by the novel's heroine, Pauline Anstruther, who as the book proceeds learns to face her fears (and her ancestors!) and to love the truth exactly as it is. The plot turns around the latest production of fictional playwright Peter Stanhope, but for Williams Pauline's realization of the divine glory incarnate in all of life is the deeper truth that sustains this and every other drama. --Doug Thorpe
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the premise and the story arc are interesting, and the key characters are moderately developed. my main difficulty was with one of the author's stylistic choices, specifically: when the action is in the physical world, the language is straightforward, but when the action shifts to the spirit world, the language shifts to a complex, intertwined, and confusing style of extended swirling run-on sentences* and fragments, which elicited in me both a sense of the convolutions of that netherworld and a sense of dizziness.
* seriously run-on; i think a couple of single sentences filled more than a single page.