This was not the ideal beach book for the Christmas holidays but now we are in different times, it has come into its own. We can’t go to the beach, or the theatre, or concerts, so some serious reading is indicated. Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas is one such book. Published by Allen & Unwin in 2019, it is the sixth novel by the 55 year old Australian-born son of Greek immigrants, who, as well as being a novelist, is a playwright, essayist and screen writer. His success to date has been remarkable. The Slap, published in 2009, was a best seller and a successful series on ABC television in 2011. His 2013 novel, Barracuda, also became a television series in 2016.
Damascus is a departure from the Australian settings of the earlier novels; its focus is on Paul of Tarsus.
It is fiction. It covers the period 35-87 AD (or CE), from shortly before Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, to twenty or so years after his death. It tells its story from Paul’s perspective, but also from the viewpoints of three contemporaries: Lydia, a convert of Paul’s, Timothy and Vrasas, a retired Roman soldier who guards Paul during his house arrest in Rome.
Christos Tsiolkas is a serious writer; confronting but easy to read. He explores what he sees as the lost possibilities of a transforming, redemptive faith.
The novel’s ominous opening line: ‘The world is in darkness’, makes sobering reading at this time.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10