The Enemy of the Good

From The Telegraph:

Ardittistory1_1424376f Michael Arditti takes the title of his new novel from Voltaire: “The best is the enemy of the good.” Arditti writes with the same compassion and humanity as Voltaire, but without the biting satire. The Enemy of the Good is an engaging exploration of contemporary manners that is tragic and comic: a mild and forgiving book about the damage that vehement religious ideas do to ordinary lives. The novel is set in contemporary Britain: Gordon Brown is Prime Minister, deportation and asylum laws are draconian, and religious conviction of all varieties seems stronger than ever. There are four parts: the first and last centred on Clement Granville, a gay HIV-positive artist in his forties; and two middle sections, one devoted to Clement’s sister, Susannah, the other to his mother, Marta.

The Granville family is the unconventional kind that traditionally appears in English novels. Clement’s father, Edwin, now in his eighties, is a retired bishop with a stately home that has been passed down the generations. His wife, Marta, originally a Polish refugee and Holocaust survivor, is a retired Oxford don. Clement had a twin, Mark, who died in early adulthood, and 18 years later the family is still grieving. Mark’s widow, Clara, and two children belonging to a deceased former boyfriend of Susannah’s, are all part of the extended family circle. There are echoes of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited in the way Arditti explores faith through the complicated, genteel Granville family. But whereas Waugh focused on Roman Catholicism, Arditti ranges across a wide spectrum of religious belief: Anglicanism, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism are all brought into the story.

More here.