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This review is from: Breaking Faith (Kindle Edition)For Philip Larkin, one of our chippiest English poets, sex began in 1963, too late for him. In his 'Annus Mirabilis' poem, he says sex began between the failed attempt to ban D.H.Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterly's Lover' because of its explicit references to sex and the Beatles' first LP. In 1971, our traditionally prudish attitudes to sex were turned into comedy in 'No Sex Please, We're British.'
But the sexual jack-in-a-box was out of his box and never going back. Maybe we were more innocent back then. Maybe the ideals of free love still meant something.
Set in the midst of all this, BREAKING FAITH is a moving and often shocking story of lust and love set in Yorkshire, England, in the scorching summer of 1976.
I enjoyed the read very much, in part because it reminded me of my own youth and of the remarkable summer. I also enjoyed the setting in the Yorkshire Dales, with remote farmhouses, tarns up the hillside, and with the melancholic warble of curlews to make us feel at home.
But BREAKING FAITH is not a gentle period piece. There is great brutality in the story, incest, and extreme hypocrisy.
There is also some excellent story telling. I was engaged from the start and the story bossed my attention to the very end. There is action, mostly in the form of some very finely described sex, with some very sexy players.
So far so good.
I enjoyed the physical vigour of the story, which at times had a Hardyesque feel to it in terms of symbolic and significant events. At other times it reminded me of the melodrama in Zola.
The most fascinating aspect of the story though was the evolution of the central character, Faith. I thought she was a brilliant study of an innocent girl's extraordinary journey into womanhood from a very bad start in life. I found her character as refreshing as the moorland tarn she loved to swim in. Yet Faith is forced to swim in the altogehter more challenging waters of a sexually driven whirlpool.
The sexual god of this whirlpool is Leigh, a successful local photographer with an eye for a glamour shot. He is also as randy and rampant as a prize-winning ram.
On the face of it, he and Faith are entirely unsuited. Yet they both work on each other in extraordinary ways. I found Faith's enlightenment in things physical absolutely absorbing because of her near crippling innocence and honesty. So, too, I found Leigh to be as compassionate as he was passionate. His heart, as well as other parts of his anatomy, was in the right place. And he was ready to be a physical champion in the cause of justice in an unjust and corrupt world. While he values women for their bodies, he also goes to war on their behalf for those who abuse them. He is an old style cavalier at the forefront of the sexual revolution.
On the dark side, there are a couple of very nasty characters in BREAKING FAITH. You would not want to have anything to do with either of them and they have no redeeming qualities. They are violent and sexually depraved.
There is a philsophical slant to drawn from the way sex can bring out the very best in us and the very worst, depending on our natures.
But there is more to BREAKING FAITH than lust and love. There is also a complex web of family relationships in play. In the last third or so of the book these become increasinly important as Faith learns more about who she is and discovers her lost father. This strand of the story is exceptionally moving, beautiful in fact. I was expecially absorbed by Faith's moral courage. While the author shows us brutality, sexuality, hypocrisy and violence, he also shows us the very best of moral fortitude, natural intelligence and love. A belt and a fist are powerful because they can hurt. But love is more powerful because it heals. And this is what happens. Love triumphs over lust. But much has to be overcome in the process and it is not a straightforward victory. You will have to read BREAKING FAITH yourself to see how the author pulls off all these strokes.
I assure yoy there are some exquisitely gentle touches in BREAKING FAITH, especially in the latter part of the story.
And there is a profound message in this very sexy story set in the sweaty-summer of sex: love beats everything.
I wonder what Philip Larkin would have made of BREAKING FAITH. And I wonder how many Faith's there are in our midst even now. You hear about them every now and again. Meanwhile, the sexual revolution has not stood still. Now we have internet porn, which poses a whole new set of questions about how men view women. Perhaps nothing has really changed in that getting the right balance in the lust and love stakes is never easy. I suspect the author was making some point about how men treat women in the title of his story. In the end, the hero of the story is broken by Faith because her love breaks his lust. But then Faith is an extraordiary woman.
I recommend BREAKING FAITH to you. It is not an easy read at times, but the darkness of the few grim scenes is always outdone by the beauty of the loving scenes.