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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/19/2005 Archived Entry: "Book review: The Light Invisible"

The Light Invisible
by Robert Hugh Benson
Published by Once and Future Books

Review by Kathryn Ramage

The Light Invisible, originally published in 1903 and recently republished by Once and Future Books, is a sort of spiritual supernatural tale. The story is not so much a novel as it is a series of vignettes about an elderly priest who sees something beyond the material world (rather like the lead character in his brother E.F. Benson's short story, "The Man Who Went Too Far," with less disastrous results.) Each chapter/vignette is framed by the priest telling the narrator about the extraordinary things he has seen in the invisible world--visible to him--throughout his life.

Although they are not precisely in chronological order, the stories progress from the priest's experiences in his youth to a mature age. The earliest stories are less explicable and often have a creepy, ghost-story-like feel to them: a gleeful face appears in the trees to delight in the shooting of a bird; two young boys, lost in the woods at night, witness some very odd goings-on. The later stories, as the priest embarks upon his vocation, become more conventionally religious in tone: a woman finds comfort during her moment of deepest grief over the loss of a loved one; a confirmed sinner repents his wickedness; a nun's prayers hold vast importance in the spiritual world.

Note: E.F. Benson was the author of the Mapp and Lucia novels and a number of ghost stories. The Bensons were a deeply religious family (their father, Edward White Benson, was Archbishop of Canterbury). While the rest of the family remained devout Anglicans, Hugh Benson converted to Catholicism and became a priest himself.

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