First published in May of 1998, British born author Clive Barker’s imaginative fantasy-cum-love-story ‘Galilee’ once again showed the author breaking away from the genre specific tag of a ‘horror author’ for which he has been (somewhat undeservingly) stamped with since his blood-drenched early work.
What is lies before you is written in the hand of the reclusive and eccentric alcoholic, Maddox Barbarossa. It is a story that follows the lives of two powerful families, whose paths have intertwined throughout the course of history. One of these families (the Barbarossa’s) are more godlike than they are human - with their lifespans lasting centuries. The other family (the Geary’s) are extremely wealthy, powerful and ruthless business men, whose unsympathetic lives mirror that of many of the more dramatic circumstances that surround the chaotic story that is about to be told.
It all begins with the meeting and marriage of Rachel Pallenberg to Mitchell Geary. After being whisked up in the wild romance with such a rich and powerful man, Rachel learns that life as a Geary isn’t everything that she thought it would be. And as their marriage slowly crumbles away, so the cracks in the family also begin to appear.
Retreating to a quiet and secluded island that is owned by the Geary women, Rachel encounters the strangely seductive traveller known only as Galilee. Their meeting is immersed in an immense passion, their love-making of the most intense Rachel has ever known. After meeting Galilee, there is no way that Rachel can even conceive of herself going back to the Geary’s.
But Mitchell Geary will not see his marriage end this way. And with the cracks in the Geary empire appearing everywhere, the powerful family must work together to keep everything from falling apart. Meanwhile, the ongoing war with the Barbarossa’s is coming to an increasingly dangerous pivotal point.
Age old families will come crashing down, a magnificent hidden history will be uncovered, and love will rip open every raw wound that has become exposed. And at the very heart of it all is the near-immortal outcast traveller who has touched the souls of each and everyone who he has come in contact with. A man who has caused countless heartache throughout history. A man who is part human and part god. A man known simply as Galilee...
With ‘Galilee’, Barker takes to a new path, with a beautifully written story of love that dances with the celestial and magical throughout. Indeed, elements of his past work such as ‘Sacrament’ (1996), ‘Imajica’ (1991) and dare I say even ‘The Book Of The Art’ novels (1989 and onwards) are clearly visible within this epic tale.
From early on it becomes very apparent that the principal character of Galilee, to which the writer shows such immense love for, is based on Barker’s own lover David Armstrong. The emotion that is projected into this character and the impression he leaves on everyone he encounters is utterly breath-taking. Barker has truly achieved something remarkable in this tale with the heights of raw passion and flooding emotion that form such a strong structure for this highly provocative fantasy love-story.
Love, revenge, power and lust burn through the pages of this enthralling tale, with almost the entire weight of the plotline resting on the broad shoulders of two immensely complex families. Indeed, the sheer depth of characterisation is astonishing. Every single member of these two families is portrayed with a magnificent level of love and care, all telling their own tales in their own unique ways. These characters all breath their own life and play their own vital roles within this epically complex storyline that spans centuries.
What is truly incredible about the tale is the way in which layers of history keep peeling back to expose more and more intrinsic levels to the whole story. Within each chapter the reader plummets further and further into this amazingly elaborate and imaginative storyline that becomes so immense that it threatens to swallow the reader whole.
The flow of the storyline, the numerous intertwining subplots, the near-poetic use of words throughout, and the truly magnificent characterisation, all form one unforgettable and utterly enchanting tale. The unfolding storyline, with its carefully constructed delivery (by way of a historical account of the two families), is mere mortar to the stonework that is the burning passion of the principal characters within the tale. Even the thoughts, feelings and longings of our eccentric narrator - Maddox Barbarossa – offers up a veritable feast of character-driven mystery.
Barker so clearly took great joy in the creation, development and elaboration of each one of the characters in the tale; working through immensely detailed histories for each, setting their places within the families and subsequently within the greater picture of the plot itself.
For imagination alone, ‘Galilee’ is a deeply compelling novel to read; but with the additionally carefully crafted love for each one of these hugely influential (plot-wise) characters - the novel as a whole is nothing short of breathtaking. Indeed, this is not like any other piece of work by Barker; yet in it are countless classic Barker-esque moments, locations, characters and imagery. Almost a contradiction in itself, but after reading the novel, I am sure that many will agree with that very statement.
The novel’s ending is extremely open, paving the way for the eventual sequel. Having just re-read the novel for the second time after a good ten years, I have once again fallen in love with each one of the many characters that captivate and immerse you deep into this magical story of romance, betrayal, hatred and ultimately revenge.
The novel runs for a total of 582 pages.
© DLS Reviews