Summary and book reviews of John the Revelator by Peter Murphy

John the Revelator

A Novel

By Peter Murphy

John the Revelator
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2009,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2010,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

This is the story of John Devine — stuck in a small town in the eerie landscape of Southeast Ireland, worried over by his single, chain-smoking, bible-quoting mother, Lily, and spied on by the "neighborly" Mrs. Nagle. When Jamey Corboy, a self-styled Rimbaudian boy wonder, arrives in town, John’s life suddenly seems full of possibility. His loneliness dissipates. He is taken up by mischief and discovery, hiding in the world beyond as Lily’s mysterious illness worsens. But Jamey and John’s nose for trouble may be their undoing and soon John will be faced with a terrible moral dilemma. Joining the ranks of the great novels of friendship and betrayal — A Separate Peace, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha John the Revelator grapples with the pull of the world and the hold of those we love. Suffused with family secrets, eerie imagery, black humor, and hypnotic prose, John the Revelator is a novel to fall in love with and an astounding debut.

Excerpt
John the Revelator

I was born in a storm. My mother said the thunder was so loud she flinched when it struck, strobes of lightning and slam-dancing winds and volleys of rain for hours until it blew itself out and sloped off like a spent beast.

'I knew you were a boy,' she said. 'Heartburn. Sure sign of a man in your life.'

My name is John Devine. I was christened after the beloved disciple, the brother of James the Great. Our Lord called them the sons of thunder.

'John was Jesus' favourite,' my mother told me. 'The patron saint of printers and tanners and typesetters.'

When she got started on this, it could go on for hours. We were out walking the fields at the back of our house. I was still in short trousers. My mother strode ahead, hell bent on where she was going, and I had to trot to keep up.

'He was the only one to stay awake in the garden while Our Lord sweated blood,' she said. 'After the crucifixion, the emperor brought him to Rome to be flogged and beaten and ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction
Stuck in a small town in the otherworldly landscape of southeast Ireland, John Devine lives in a tiny house worried over by his single, chain-smoking, Bible-quoting mother, Lily, and spied on by the "neighborly" Mrs. Nagle. When Jamey Corboy, a self-styled Rimbaudian boy wonder, arrives in town, John's life suddenly seems full of possibility. His loneliness dissipates. He is taken up by mischief and discovery, hiding in the world beyond as Lily's mysterious illness worsens. But Jamey and John's nose for trouble may be their undoing, and soon John will be faced with a terrible moral dilemma.

Discussion Points

  1. This novel is a wondrous mix of biblical mythology, science, and dark ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

John the Revelator will undoubtedly garner rave critical reviews, but the reading public will likely have a wide range of opinions on whether or not it's worth perusing. I can't even categorically state that this is one of those books readers will either love or hate; Murphy's writing is so distinctive that reader ratings will almost certainly run the full spectrum. The novel should appeal most to those who revel in quality writing and enjoy books that break the mold.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews
The Guardian (UK)

An Irish music writer, Peter Murphy casts his debut novel like a blues noir, steeped in the music that has clearly inspired him....this spook-filled Irish landscape, rendered with gouts of blood-red humour, is entirely his own.

Daily Express (UK)

Murphy writes spare arresting prose with the brio of Ireland's current literary star Anne Enright and he has the ear for dialogue of Roddy Doyle.

The Times (UK)

Murphy's writing is resolutely unsentimental, but so moving and powerful that the end had me weeping buckets.

The Daily Mail (UK)

Murphy's eerily atmospheric debut .... with its dark humour and hypnotic prose, brilliantly captures the uncertainties of growing up."

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Murphy understands the gracelessness of teenage boys and that peculiar delinquent wisdom shared by all the great coming-of-age novelists. With this novel, he doesn't have to bow to any of them.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Beautifully humane and sometimes nightmarish, this incredible debut novel by a noted music and culture editor, journalist, and critic recounts the life and times of John Devine

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. [A] jaw-dropping debut...A terrific, disquieting addition to the long tradition of Irish storytelling.

Sunday Tribune

Murphy has a very obvious affection for language, and for the crackle, spark and music of words....in John Devine he avoids the obvious and trite and creates an obliquely fascinating character.

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Beyond the Book

John The Revelator, The Person
The title of Peter Murphy's book is taken from a traditional song about John of Patmos, the name given to the author of the biblical Book of Revelation, who identifies himself as living on the Greek island of Patmos. Scholars date Revelation to between AD 54 and 96 with most believing it to have been written around AD 95.

In the 2nd century AD, the early Christian apologist Justin of Caesarea (later Saint Justin Martyr) suggested that the author of Revelation was the same person as both Jesus' apostle, "John the Beloved", and "John the Evangelist", author of The Gospel of John. But, around the 3rd century this was called into question by church historians who identified the author of ...

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