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The Beauty of the Lilies

In its 500 pages, the novel portrays American life from 1910 to 1990 through the eyes of four generations. It begins with a quite brilliant portrait of a Presbyterian pastor losing his faith; moves on to the story of his son Teddy, a postman in a small suburban town; then tells the story of Essie his daughter, who enters Hollywood by way of a sleazy modelling career; and finishes with the story of Clark, Essie's only son, who becomes Press Officer for a religious cult that Updike has clearly modelled on David Koresh's Temple at Waco, Texas.

David Porter

By John Updike Hamish Hamilton. £16.00. Hardback.

John Updike's 17th novel In the Beauty of the Lilies - written as he approaches old age - is not the work of a card-carrying evangelical. Updike's mentor is Karl Barth, he is deeply concerned with the implications of a God of utter Otherness, and strives to analyse an America that at the millennium can only look back on a crisis of faith and of humanity itself.