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|All Hallows' Eve|
by Charles Williams
Published by Pellegrini & Cudahy, 1945
Abebooks.com: various editions
Recommended by: Ross Pavlac
Note that Charles Williams' novels are not in a series, and may be read in any order. His writing style is dark and complex, and heavily laden with atmosphere and symbolism; thus, his books are not to everyone's taste.
May, 2005, marks the sixtieth anniversary of Charles Williams' death, and, in what is probably an appropriate twist, the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of All Hallows' Eve doesn't come up until December. The novel was published posthumously, and, in fact, was set in the near future when Williams wrote it, so that it turns out to have a posthumous setting as well. (Although at the time, nobody had any idea that the minor surgery which Williams underwent would lead to his death.) Williams specialised in stories which crossed the line between life and death. In fact, it is not at all unusual for him to take most of the first chapter to reveal to the reader which characters are alive and which are dead, as he does in this case.
This work is typical of Williams in other ways as well: although he introduces a globe-girdling plot to enslave mankind, and a more intimate plot to murder an innocent girl, the real crux of the story revolves around apparently minor moral issues. And, again as is his custom, Williams portrays those moral issues in terms of a choice between connecting with other people, extending and receiving help, or putting the self above all others. In Williams' words, the choice is between co-inherence or incoherence.
Where Descent Into Hell uses poetry as a thematic device, All Hallows' Eve uses art. And, therefore, it is more accessible, at least for me, since I tend to think visually. (Interestingly enough, Williams includes several instances in which characters see something, but don't understand what they are seeing, so even as he makes the story more accessible to visual thinkers like me, he includes the caution that sight is not enough to bring understanding.)
Unfortunately, Williams' death cut short his career, so we only have the seven published novels to enjoy. I can only wonder what he could have produced had he lived longer, and encourage you to discover what he did write during his lifetime. Greg Slade (May, 2005)
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