Reviews of Earthly Powers (1980)
Review by islander255 (2007-02-27)
"Earthly Powers", while not nearly as well-known as Anthony Burgess's "A Clockwork Orange", has its own merits. This massive masterpiece, which Burgess considered his best, follows the life of Kenneth Toomey, world-famous homosexual novelist, and (to a lesser extent) Don Carlo Campanati, a holy man of God who is destined to become pope.
This is a huge book, and it will likely take a long time to read. The first 50 pages or so (before Toomey starts telling about his early life) is very dull. Yet after that the novel gets to be worth your time. Kenneth's struggles between his religion and his sexuality are fascinating. Equally enthralling is his relationships with his sister, his brother-in-law (who happens to be Campanati's younger sibling), and with Campanati himself. This book spans nearly 70 years of time--and it does it pretty effortlessly, too. It is no wonder Anthony Burgess considers it his best. It is well-written, and after a while I couldn't seem to leave the book alone, so deep was I into the lives of the characters.
Of course, whatever Anthony Burgess said, I consider "A Clockwork Orange" to be his best novel (as well as one of my three favorite books). However, this other novel of his is well worth the time and effort it takes to get through it. It is much more preferable to spend a few weeks on this massive tome than to waste a few weeks reading a massive volume of Tom Clancy trash.
My rating: 9/10