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Book Title: The Greater Trumps|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 894 KB
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The author of the book: Charles Williams
Edition: Faber & Faber
Date of issue: 1964
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
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Reader ratings: 6.3
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"The Greater Trumps" is a powerfully conceived work brilliantly constructed on the basis of the ancient Tarot Card Deck. Williams studied the works of A.C. Waite and his novel is apparently using the images created for the Rider Deck designed by Patricia Coleman-Smith under the direction of Waite.
The images of this deck were a perfect focus for the imagination of Charles Williams who was able to transfigure their already powerful iconic meanings into transcendental images of profound spirituality. To the deck itself he adds a strange board with the images represented by moving figures based on those in the deck. Throughout, Williams links the desires, actions, decisions, and personalities of various characters to their equivalents in the 22 cards that form “The Greater Trumps”.
The characters themselves are quite unusual. Nancy is deeply in love with the rather sinister Henry Lee who sees her primarily as a tool to learn to control the Greater Trumps and thus gain tremendous power. Nancy’s father Lothair Coningsby has possession of the original Tarot pack which contains the most accurate representations of the images. However Mr Coningsby sees the world as an utterly matter-of-fact physical reality with no deeper spiritual dimension. Thus, the cards are useless to him. However, they are his, and he has no intention of giving them to Henry or Aaron Lee, Henry’s even more sinister uncle—the possessor of the dancing figures on the board.
Then there are two sisters. Aaron’s sister is the terrible, mad Joanna who lives in a nightmarish world of evil hatred infused with Egyptian mythology searching for a dead child. Sybil Coningsby, Lothair’s sister is the opposite. She worships the creative Love which infuses the universe and has become a mystic aware of the world but untainted by it.
Sybil is probably the triumph of the book. It is exceedingly difficult for an author to create a believable and interesting character who is also very good. Consider how Fielding failed in Tom Jones. Squire Allworthy is the touchstone of goodness, generosity, etc. And he is quite boring. Is one interested in Satan or Christ in "Paradise Lost"? Sybil is very much a figure personifying the saintly mystic. Some have called her a “female Christ”. Thus she could easily become a mere icon without a distinctive personality. But she has gone through suffering and anguish to achieve her inner calm. Henry is aware of Sybil’s special nature:
“She’s got some sort of a calm, some equanimity in her heart. She—the only eyes that can read the future exactly, and she doesn’t want to know the future. Everything’s complete for her in the moment.”
She acts as a foil to her brother who is uninterested in—and perhaps afraid of—spiritual energy and vision. But she loves her brother dearly and this is because she knows that deeper than his irritating ways and petty concerns lies the capability of love—which reaches its fruition at the end.
Nancy trusts her and perhaps is on the path that will allow her to find the same calm as her aunt. At one point as she faces the hateful Joanna—the evil parallel to Sybil—she has a vision of the terrible anguish that lies behind such despair:
“The litany of anguish poured out as if it were the sound of the earth itself rushing through space, and comfortless for ever the spinning globe swept on, turning upon itself, crying to itself; and space was the echo of its lament, and time was the measure of its sobs.”
This vision appals Nancy. It is a possible future.
“Joanna stood in the way; beyond her the way led to Sybil. She could see Sybil—ever so far off, in that descent upon which the great stairs opened.”
Moments like this resonate through the novel. They make for fascinating reading.
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Read information about the authorCharles Walter Stansby Williams is probably best known, to those who have heard of him, as a leading member (albeit for a short time) of the Oxford literary group, the "Inklings", whose chief figures were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. He was, however, a figure of enormous interest in his own right: a prolific author of plays, fantasy novels (strikingly different in kind from those of his friends), poetry, theology, biography and criticism.
— the Charles Williams Society website
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