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Godric: A Novel Paperback – December 22, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If you think a novel about a saint is likely to be a dry and airy sort of thing, think again. Godric was a 12th-century saint--born to Anglo-Saxon parents in Norfolk almost in the year of the Norman invasion (1066 for those of you long unschooled!). He was a peddler and wanderer long before he settled into the life of a hermit in northern England, led there by the famous hermit St. Cuthbert, who told him, "your true nesting place lies farther on, [and] until you reach it, every other place you find will fret you like a cage."

In Godric Frederick Buechner captures the voice and the times of this saint with a style that recalls the richly alliterative language of Middle English poetry. So too does it recall the beautiful earthiness of that literature, reminding us that this time of deep spirituality was also a time of real flesh-and-blood folk. And in some ways this is the deepest point of this delightful (and at times comic) novel: these people, like those who live among us today, become saints not by leaving the body behind but by finding a way to live more deeply within it. They find a way to turn it to glory. --Doug Thorpe

Review

"Godric is a memorable book...a marvelous gem of a book...destined to become a classic of its kind." -- Michael Heskett, Houston Chronicle

"In the extraordinary figure of Godric, both stubborn outsider and true child of God, both worldly and unworldly, Frederick Buechner has found an ideal means of exploring the nature of spirituality. Godric is a living battleground where God fights it out with the world, the Flesh, and the Devil." -- London Times Literary Supplement

"With a poet's sensibly and a high reverent fancy, Frederick Buechner paints a memorable portrait." -- Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal

Frederick Buechner's Godric "retells the life of Godric of Finchale, a twelfth-century English holy man whose projects late in life included that of purifying his moral ambition of pride...Sin, spiritual yearning, rebirth, fierce asceticism--these hagiographic staples aren't easy to revitalize but Frederick Buechner goes at the task with intelligent intensity and a fine readiness to invent what history doesn't supply. He contrives a style of speech for his narrator--Godric himself--that's brisk and tough-sinewed...He avoids metaphysical fiddle, embedding his narrative in domestic reality--familiar affection, responsibilities, disasters...All on his own, Mr. Buechner has managed to reinvent projects of self-purification and of faith as piquant matter for contemporary fiction [in a book] notable for literary finish...Frederick Buechner is a very good writer indeed." -- Benjamin DeMott, The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reissue edition (December 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060611626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060611620
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
So much of the literature of the late Twentieth Century was cynical, formulaic and predictable. Some became bestsellers (Lamb's "I Know This Much Is True"). Others won awards (Anything by Rushdie--whose formula is to be so weird that it must be presumed genius). With such fare glutting the market, it seemed that works could only be distinguished by the depth of suffering and lack of communication. Authors became ever more navel-gazing in their thoughts, faux introspection and angst. What was once innovative and new became trite. The art of subtlety was all but lost. It is amazing that any enduing work could spring from such a milieu. Yet several did.
One masterpiece born of the later half of the Twentieth Century was Godric. Godric is the tale of an all too human man. The great theme of Godric is the difference between reality and truth. Godric's triumph is not his own but that of the God who shines through all his weaknesses. Frederick Buechner is a writer of great subtlety and a master of his craft. Filled with earthy wisdom and wonderful truth, Godric is not only one of Buechner's best books--it is one of the greatest books of its time.
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Format: Paperback
Many other amazon reviewers have described the book as "poetic" and I must agree. Buechner has shaped this story with an economy of words, and it often reads like a superb narrative poem. I read it in one sitting and was captivated by its grace.
A recurring theme in the book is the disparity between what is commonly perceived as "sainthood" or "saintliness" and what the saint, in fact, knows himself to be. Like Paul in the New Testament (see Romans chapter 7 for instance), Godric is continually brought to an awareness of his inner wretchedness as compared with other's perception of him. At one point his scribe Reginald reminds him that the name Godric means "God reigns" but Godric himself feels more affinity with the term "God's wreck." He says, "...Godric's sins have made a wreck of God."
Elsewhere he concludes that "life's a list. Good tilts with ill." Sounds negative? Well, if the sky is blue on your planet, pull up a chair and introduce yourself to LIFE! With those words, Godric is referring to the reality that in many instances evil men prosper while the good suffer privation. Even in the church, the Lord is oftentimes mocked by those who ought to have exalted Him the most. And sincere folks are often given to attributing holiness to those most undeserving. In this book we learn that holiness must, of necessity, be something other than good behavior... it turns out to be nothing other than the unmerited presence of God.
A beautiful book. Well worth reading, and as some have suggested, re-reading many times. I plan to. We see ourselves here.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the greatest novels of the century. The style is unique: raw, earthy, yet poetic. Try reading it aloud and you quickly fall into a singsong rhythm that reinforces, rather than detracts from, the polish of the writing. _Godric's_ themes are deep as Wear, from the nature of friendship to the difference between religion and faith. This is one you'll read over and over; get several copies, since you'll want to loan it often and not everyone will want to give it back!
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Format: Paperback
Two thirds of my first time through Frederic Beuchner's re-imagining of the story of Godric, I realized that I had been reading blank verse for page after beautiful page. The beauty, earthy comedy, and plain-spokenness of the tale were so far uppermost in my mind that my ear didn't even calculate the music it was enjoying at first. Godric-Deric-Godericus-Drick-Godric bawls his story with such epic wrathfulness and lullabies it with such unearthly tenderness that we take it for the beating of our own blood, and not the mostly iambic measure. In the same way, Godric's self-knowledge, his all-too-human grief and shame at the imperfect acts of an imperfect life, and his savage irony at the biographer sent to him by his friend, serve to cast his saintliness into the shadows of a life lived ever in the presence of his own shadow self. But if we read with the eye of an open heart, the gentle, courteous irony is that Godric emerges for us much as the saint his medieval hagiographer, Reginald, would have had us believe him to be. Indeed, perhaps more the saint, because Godric makes us party to all the darker details of his struggle toward God. This is not an expose of the unseemly details behind the gilded sweetness of a medieval golden legend. It is an exigesis of a human heart.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I was struck first by the creativity of Buechner. Godric was a historic figure, but Buechner's fleshing him out and delving into his soul were much more fascinating than the interesting historic facts. Secondly I was stuck by how well the story is crafted, in style and character development and progression of the story. There are scattered gems of commentary on human nature and theology. As other reviewers have pointed out, while part of us is appalled at some of Godric's thoughts and deeds, another part of us recognizes these dark shortcomings in ourselves. A book about humanity, sin and grace. Strangely, though a book that is at times raunchy and violent and appalling, it is also an honest book that can strengthen faith. Godric will be hard to forget.
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