Pick of the week: A Decline in Prophets

| Bendigo Weekly | 03-Jun-2011 1.53

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A Decline in Prophets
Sulari Gentill
Pantera Press, $29.99
Reviewed by Brenda Stevens-Chambers

I have lost count of the recent publications of around 350 pages where I have wanted to do some serious pruning.
However, it was with some relief that I zoomed through A Decline in Prophets, by Australian writer Sulari Gentill, without picking up the shears.
A Decline in Prophets is a second “Rowland Sinclair Novel”, and there could be a third in the offering.
Rowland Sinclair is the novel’s handsome, gentlemanly protagonist. Rowly, as his friends affectionately call him, lives the life of an artist in Woollahra, Sydney. He is the younger son of a grazing dynasty, and absolutely rolling in money. His friends include Norman Lindsay (Gentill has great fun dropping names).
The novel opens with Rowly on board a luxury liner returning to Sydney, via New York.
With him are close Aussie friends: Enid a ditzy ‘‘sculptress’’ and two mates, one an artist, the other a lack-lustre poet. This lucky trio has been shouted by Rowly and share his Stateroom.
Rowly, whose mansion is adorned with paintings of nudes, may seem privileged, but he is smart: he helps solve several murders while magically escaping the same fate.
Rowley is surrounded by wealthy, educated eccentrics, all of a religious frame of mind. Annie is a Theosophist who is returning to New York while several other Theosophists are heading home to Sin City.
There is also an Irish Catholic Bishop, two Catholic deacons, and the Bishop’s wayward niece on board.
Gentill sets up a rollicking high-seas yarn topped off in Sydney with a fall from a bell tower and some shenanigans in a graveyard where Rowly has another close shave.
And then, Rowly is briefly considered a Prophet, the second gorgeously farcical idea that Gentill has some fun with.
Readers will find an interesting twist in the relationship between Rowly and his older brother Wilfred. Wilfred is a judgmental, manipulative conservative and Rowly experiences considerable character assassination as he struggles to please his bully of a brother.
The denouement is deft.

For this week’s Top Ten supplied by Dymocks Bendigo, www.bendigoweekly.com.au/book-club/
Winter readers’ BW Bookclub offer: Email bookclub@bendigoweekly.com.au and we will send you a new release paperback for your winter reading pleasure.

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