Belief by Stephanie Johnson – 2000

BeliefThis tale, which takes place in New Zealand and the United States, is one of longing for faith and love and spans the turn of the last century; the prologue is in 1880 and the epilogue 1920. The two main characters are William, a well-born drunkard who has a life-changing experience of God, and Myra, an Australian orphan he marries when she is an un-schooled and un-socialised 17 year old. In their story the chasms between faith and insanity, between love and abuse, appear as very fine lines. William’s longing for God and acceptance is skilfully drawn against the backdrop of his horribly flawed character, and Johnson’s evoking of Myra’s at times inexplicable forbearance manages to finally come across as a kind of love, albeit a love that inflicts its own collateral damage. Belief is a tragic tale but made compelling by fine characterisation and the interesting backdrop of turn of the century utopianism.

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