This novel is made up of three stories involving balloons. Central to each of the stories is a need to escape. When that moment comes as the individual begins to ascend to the skies, there is a moment of rapture- hence the title. With a structure and a quirkiness reminiscent of Yann Martel’s “High Mountains Of Portugal” this could be literary Marmite – a case of love it or hate it, but it manages to work for me.
This is Campbell’s second novel and there is no doubt that he likes to heap misery onto his characters. In the first section we meet Ursule, living in nineteenth century Paris. She is sold by her parents to a man who beats her and wants to both possess and prostitute her. In the second section Dexter, a GI, is lost in the Vietnamese jungle in 1965. He is a sole survivor who is struggling to deal with just existing and also dealing with the demons of his past. In the third section Campbell takes us to Sicily in 2015 where sixty-five year old Father Dante Corsini is having a crisis of faith and is struggling with lustful thoughts which he thought he had long abandoned. Of the three it was Ursule’s story which most captivated me and and I felt most relieved when she grabbed her chance for escape.
The author uses interludes to link and comment upon his stories and to tie up loose ends. With his writer’s voice he is prepared to intervene and show he is control of his fiction – a technique which is beneficial to the overall feel of the book.
Some readers might see a spiritual end-of-life interpretation and that is plausible whilst others will read along waiting for the moment when the balloon gets the right puff of wind and begins to rise. There’ s a lot of darkness here yet from out of that comes welcome light.
The Aeronaut’s Guide To Rapture was published by Sandstone Press in May 2016