Michael Gilchrist


(2004, 752pp, $34.95 plus postage. Available from Steele Wilson Books, PO Box 372, Greensborough Vic 3088, (03) 9434 5484,

Unlike most books these days dealing with Christianity and the Catholic Church - notably The Da Vinci Code - The Castle of Heavenly Bliss incorporates strong and accurate presentations of Church doctrines and practices within its absorbing plot. In effect, it represents a strong counter to the gnostic, feminist elements promoted in the Da Vinci Code.

Despite its rather daunting length, The Castle of Heavenly Bliss is a good read, with an engrossing story line, vivid descriptive writing and striking scene and character depictions. The scenes are set in a variety of locations, from rural Victoria and urban Melbourne to Paris and the Dutch Province of Zeeland.

More traditionally inclined Catholic readers will not only enjoy the plot and how the pieces finally fall into place but no doubt welcome the sympathetic and prominent place given to Church teachings, practices and traditions. Less-committed readers may find the somewhat proselytising style of these intrusive or off- putting.

Good and evil

The book takes its cue from certain 19th century novels as well as epics like Lord of the Rings where the line between good and evil is sharply drawn. As in Dickens' works, the good seem too good to be true, and the bad too bad to be true. But this serves the present novel's purpose and will no doubt be a refreshing contrast for many readers to the moral relativism that dominates our secular culture and much of its literature.

One hopes the book may win some converts to the Catholic view among less committed readers, but my feeling is that its main attraction will be for the already converted - particularly traditional Catholics.

The Castle of Heavenly Bliss is a monumental and commendable effort by one of our local Catholic writers and deserves to be well supported. Gerard Wilson has considerable skills as a novel writer, reminding one at times of Malachi Martin whose books, despite their sprawling length, generally hold the reader's attention to the end as this one does.

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