Michael Hughes: The Countenance Divine


I received a free digital copy of this book through the publishers on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

In 1999 a programmer is trying to fix the millennium bug, but can’t shake the sense he’s been chosen for something.

In 1888, five women are brutally murdered in the East End by a troubled young man in thrall to a mysterious master.

In 1777 an apprentice engraver called William Blake has a defining spiritual experience; thirteen years later this vision returns.

And in 1666, poet and revolutionary John Milton completes the epic for which he will be remembered centuries later.

But where does the feeling come from that the world is about to end?

The Countenance Divine is a work of historical fiction, taking important events from history alongside historical figures in a novel that focuses on the end of the world. Each person’s story revolves around the belief that the end of the world is nigh, and how they all believe that they have been chosen and wondering how they are meant to leave their mark upon the world.

I will dive straight in and mention that this novel just wasn’t for me. I found it hard to associate with any of the characters, the pacing was slow and dragged out, and I didn’t like the way in was written in general. All of this added together resulted in a very bored me, though I powered through the novel as I thought that there might be some change towards the end where everything would make sense and I could begin to understand why the rest of the novel was so slow. Not only does Hughes have multiple characters, an aspect I usually thoroughly enjoy, but he jumps between different writing styles that are inherent to these characters time periods. Now, this in itself is no real issue however, I did find it hard to come to terms with the adjustment each time and, considering what the writing and language was like during those times, this made it hard for me to understand what was actually going on. I had to think long and hard about what I was reading and what Hughes was trying to portray. I can definitely see this being up some people’s alleys, but it just wasn’t for me and I am disappointed by this.

Not only was this novel boring for me, but the characters – in particular Chris – were also boring to me. I felt like it took a while for Chris to be fully fleshed out and the way that he was portrayed within the writing didn’t draw me in and make me empathise or truly understand his character. I had no real feelings towards any of the characters even though they seemed to be the main focus as opposed to the end of the world theory in most of these narratives.

This isn’t a novel that I would recommend to anyone unless they had a strong interest in past literary figures or end of the world doomsday theories. I found the novel really disjointed and found it very long-winded. I can however, appreciate that Hughes has spent a lot of time researching and understanding these literary figures and what drove them forward and how they are all interlinked in some way.


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