Customer Reviews of The Heartbreaker
Susan Howatch does it again
Great characters that stay with you. It's been a few years since I read the last installment of her Church of England books, but I could remember enough about the characters to easily pick up the story in Heartbreaker. Gavin Blake calls himself a "leisure worker," and lives his life encased in multiple layers of denial. The two voices in the book are Gavin's and Carta Graham's (from High Flyer). The book is about sin, redemption, and Christianity as a path to that redemption. It's not a morality play, but an intense study in human psychopathology. Since Gavin's a prostitute who services wealthy gay men, there are lots of discussions about sex, but there's no explicit, graphic sex. Howatch is not a romance novelist. She creates interesting complex characters that need spiritual rescue - and get it. I laughed and cried reading this book.
This is a book that is unusually in this age, brave enough to confront head on the psychological damage caused by the sex industry and in a wider sense the sexual revolution. Gavin, the principle narrator is a male prostitute. Initially he portrays himself as an adorable, cheeky bundle of sexual relief. He describes his physical attributes and the attention he gives to taking care of them with loving detail. However, as the novel progresses and Gavin recounts the indignities of his life as an escort with an increasingly forced gaiety, the reader witnesses his gradual realisation of his emotional and physical enslavement in a manner which is truly heart-rending.
Hope comes in the form of an accidental meeting with Carta Graham a business associate of one of Gavin's former clients who was also damaged by Gavin's female pimp, the erstwhile psychic Elizabeth Mayfield. This meeting allows Gavin to finally see an escape route from his life. However Elizabeth Mayfield has exceedingly powerful and rather evil friends so the crux of this novel is whether Gavin will manage to extricate himself alive, literally.
It sounds trite to say this is a novel about redemption but redemption is its main theme. It is through the support and love of Rev. Nicholas Darrow et al., that Gavin is able to rediscover his worth as a human being from being valued simply as an attractive piece of flesh. The power of this novel comes from the dramatic contrast between the insidious but very 'grand guignol' evil of Gavin's pimp and her henchmen and the innate goodness of the characters in Nicholas Darrow's healing ministry. This contrast reaches its zenith in a dinner party conversation about the merits of Christinaity vis á vis the occult between Nicholas Darrow the charismatic reverend and Elizabeth Mayfield's principal ally, a very sinister character described by Gavin as a Westminster mandarin whose name escapes at present.
Heartbreaker is a marveous read
I expected some "preachy" content-- but found nothing to complain about in this fascinating character-driven story of Gavin, a high-class prostitute with his hip, cocky self-delusion about his "ideal life". Susan Howatch does a great job of portraying Gavin's downward spiral into hell- and redemption.
The interaction between Carta and Gavin- actually- everyone and Gavin- is fascinating, with a few twists and turns that were unexpected. This book will have you squirming in your seat, sometimes due to the sexual content, sometimes the tense scenarios Gavin works his way through to escape the evil Elizabeth, Gavin's pimp. Elizabeth will do anything for the bucks- including hand her boys over to a butcher.
What the plot lacks- and it doesn't lack that much- Howatch makes up with her characterizations. Gavin is exasperating- and delightful- and sexy as anything. I'm not sure just how realistic Gavin is; after all he's supposedly a totally straight man -- not a bisexual, mind you -- working as a homosexual prostitute. But Howatch does a good job of convincing me it's the truth.
I found this novel good from start to finish.
A great storyteller continues her work!
I discovered Susan Howatch just a few years ago, and since then have read everything she has written. She is an incredible storyteller, and always was; but as her life-experience and wisdom have grown, her books have gone from flat (early in her career) to very, very multidimensional (at a peak with her Starbridge series and continued here.) I pre-ordered this book so that I'd have it when it was finally released, and I was not disappointed when I got it and read it!
Susan Howatch takes the reader into whole new worlds: the minds of each character and their perspective, the different philosophies and theologies and historical details that she researches and presents so seamlessly in her stories, and a view of Christianity that is a wonderful marriage of Orthodox Christianity in all its varieties with a full, modern understanding of psychology and sociology.
This novel will appeal to anyone who is bright and well-read because of the combination of a great story, well-developed characters, and a very intriguing view of the world!
Back with the pack at St. Benet's
Susan Howatch continues to surprise and amaze us with her series of books that probe the far reaches of Christianity and the history of 20th-century Britain, starting with "Glittering Images." This edition may be the most surprising of all, as about half is told in the voice of a rent boy named Gavin. Like all her narrators, Gavin finds that all his self-deceptions explode until all that's left is ready for the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. This is an explicit book, but Howatch has never flinched from sex -- after all, sex is a part of our life with God, and what can keep us from God. I was spellbound, Followers of her work from the Starbridge series will be delighted with the ending -- will the loose ends still dangling from the smash-up ending of "Mystical Paths," hinted at in "The Wonder Worker," finally be tied up? Anyway, Howatch combines the narrative inventiveness of a potboiler with characters we've come to love, particularly Nicholas Darrow, Carta Graham and the rascal Lewis Hall. One key plot point is a little obvious for people who have read her previous books, "The Wonder Worker" and "The High Flyer," but we can forgive her for that -- in a way it adds to our delight and enjoyment as we wait for the other characters to figure out what's going on.