Excerpt from John the Revelator by Peter Murphy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

John the Revelator

A Novel

by Peter Murphy

John the Revelator by Peter Murphy X
John the Revelator by Peter Murphy
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2009, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2010, 272 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

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 thrown in a cauldron of boiling oil. They tried to poison him with wine, but the poison rose to the surface in the shape of a snake. In the end they banished him to Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation.'

She took out her handkerchief and dribbled on it.

'The only apostle to escape martyrdom.'

And she wiped my face. The smell was like when you lick yourself, a compound of saliva and tissue and skin. I tried to pull away, but she wouldn't let go until she was satisfied I was clean.

'He died in the year a hundred and one. People believed that once a year his grave gave off a smell that could heal the sick. Just before John passed away, his followers carried him into the assembly at the church of Ephesus and asked him how to live. You know what he said?'

She stuffed the tissue up her sleeve.

'Little children, love one another.'

'That's all?'

'It's enough to be going on with.'


Said my mother, I was still an infant when we moved from the caravan near Ballo strand to a house a couple of miles outside Kilcody. Her mother and father willed it to her when they died. It was always so cold there you could see your breath hang in the air. Vines of ivy crawled across the pebble-dashed walls; weeds strangled the few sticks of rhubarb. There was a sandpit out the back, broken toys and mustard minarets of turd, an orange clothesline dripping laundry.

Every day after school I dragged my schoolbag home like it was a younger brother, let myself into the house and snapped on all the downstairs lights. There was a cactus on our kitchen windowsill, swollen green fingers and prickly white spines. Beside that was Haircut Charlie, the clown's head for planting seeds in, grass growing out of the tiny holes in his skull. A sacred-heart lamp glowed atop the mantelpiece. The floor was new blue linoleum with black patterns. One time a pipe under the sink leaked and we had to tear up the old stuff and underneath was crawling with bulbous pea-green slugs and brown fungus, like deformed bonsai trees.

My mother was still at work when I got home. She cleaned people's houses, and sometimes she took in clothes to be washed or mended. She said you could tell a lot about a person from their dirty laundry.

I'd sit over my homework at the kitchen table, anticipating the squeak of the gate, the parched bark of her cough. If she were late I'd start to worry that she'd been taken, and I'd be sent to an orphanage or made to live with her friend Mrs Nagle or someone else old. But she always came home, shrugging out of her coat and saying she was choking for a cup of tea and a fag.

After the kettle went on she set the fire, placing bits of Zip under the briquettes, blue and orange flames licking at her fingers. Then she hefted the big pot onto the cooker.

'What's for dinner?'

Excerpted from John the Revelator by Peter Murphy, copyright @ 2009. Reprinted with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Once There Were Wolves
    Once There Were Wolves
    by Charlotte McConaghy
    In Charlotte McConaghy's second novel after her debut Migrations, environmental biologist Inti Flynn...
  • Book Jacket: The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
    The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
    by Alka Joshi
    Alka Joshi's The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is the sequel to her 2020 bestseller The Henna Artist and ...
  • Book Jacket: Seek You
    Seek You
    by Kristen Radtke
    In the first pages of Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Kristen Radtke's sophomore ...
  • Book Jacket: The Man Who Hated Women
    The Man Who Hated Women
    by Amy Sohn
    If debates over women's reproductive health seem stuck in an earlier era — the fact that birth...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
In Every Mirror She's Black
by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
An arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Lost Notebook of Edouard Manet
    by Maureen Gibbon

    A sensual portrait of Manet's last years, and a vibrant testament of the artistic spirit.

  • Book Jacket

    Never Saw Me Coming
    by Vera Kurian

    "Fun, entertaining and hard to put down."
    —The New York Journal of Books

Who Said...

A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Pull Y U B T B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.