10-pages-in book review: The Reincarnationist

I don’t usually do sponsored book reviews as 10-pages-in reviews. I try to keep them distinct, partly so you’ll know books I’ve stumbled upon serendipitously versus books I’ve been offered to review, and partly because if someone is going to the trouble of sponsoring a review (in this case, MotherTalk provides a copy of the book and a $20 Amazon gift certificate) the least I can do is read the whole book before reviewing it!

In this case, I’m going to make an exception. I would have likely been curious enough about this book to pick it up on my own anyway. Plus, I didn’t receive it until a week or so ago, and quite frankly – I just haven’t had time to finish it yet! Right now, I’m about two-thirds of the way through.

After all that, on with the review. Today we’re talking about MJ Rose’s The Reincarnationist, a suspense thriller with a historical twist, akin to Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code meets Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.

Photojournalist Josh Ryder witnesses a terrorist attack in Rome, one that kills a nearby security guard and nearly kills him as well. From that moment onward, he finds himself haunted by waking nightmares, visions and hallucinations he can’t explain. They are flashbacks to Josh’s prior life as Julian, a fourth-century Roman having an illicit affair with the last of the Vestal Virgins.

The narrative swings from Josh’s story to Julian’s and back again. As the narrative leaps from modernity to ancient Rome with stops in between, the reader is drawn deeper into a complex web of interlocking mysteries that include a modern-day murder and the theft of a set of mystical objects called Memory Stones, rumoured to have the power to help the holder know all of his or her past lives.

It’s an intriguing novel and I find myself becoming more drawn into it as the story progresses. I compared it earlier to The Da Vinci Code and The Historian, and I don’t think it’s quite as compelling or well executed as those two novels – although I can’t quite put my finger on the reason why. I wish I had a better feel for Josh – and for Julian, for that matter. I have neither a clear picture in my mind of the character, nor do I quite buy into his behaviour.

Regardless, it’s one of the better books I’ve read this year, an exciting story full of page-turning suspense. There are sinister forces at play, a likeable hero, more than a hint of romance, and a handful of mysteries to be solved. What more could you ask of a book?

What I am particularly enjoying, and frankly wish there was more of, is the philosophical examination of reincarnation. I’m ambivalent about the topic myself – I tend to agree with Hamlet, who said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” So while I won’t discount reincarnation outright, I also can’t say I’ve ever been compellingly convinced of its existence.

I had never really thought before reading this book about why the Catholic Church has such a problem with the idea of reincarnation (I’ll paraphrase it to “we can’t leave the eternal redemption of the unwashed masses in their own hands; whatever will our priests do?”) and found the historical description of the evolution of religion in the early years of the Church quite intriguing. I wish I knew / remembered enough about history to know whether it’s an accurate portrayal.

With a full third of this book left to read, it’s just getting really good now, and I’m quite hooked. Divergent story lines are just starting to come together, and I’m curious to see how it all comes out. If you’re curious, you can read more about The Reincarnationist on author MJ Rose’s website.

So, what do you think about the whole reincarnation thing? Were you a peasant farmer or wealthy noblesse in a past life? Or is this your one and only kick at the can?

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

10 thoughts on “10-pages-in book review: The Reincarnationist

  1. Hmm, I don’t beleive in reincarnation… and I can’t comment on the book you’re reading/reviewing. I’m reading A Prayer for Owen Meany now, and was wondering if you’ve read any other John Irving books you could recommend to me?

  2. Hm. This book sounds really interesting, even though I never read The DaVinci Code, and never finished The Historian (it fell by the wayside when I went into labour with the Peanut, and I never picked it up again). But I love a good historical novel.

    Do I believe in reincarnation? Nope, not really. I just can’t imagine coming back in a future life as a ladybug, or a blade of grass. Or do we stick with species, and I come back as a whale hunter in Finland? I just can’t wrap my head around it. Perhaps if I could I’d be a more spiritually enlightened person, who knows?

  3. Protestant churches already cut out the priest as middle-man – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they endorse reincarnation. I don’t think it’s so much that Christianity reject reincarnation as that the concept simply does not form a part of the historical development of the faith. Ancient Judaism associated the afterlife with “Sheol” – a kind of shadowy underworld. To that, Christianity added the concepts of heaven and hell. I know there are ways of tracing Eastern roots in the teachings of Jesus, but that doesn’t change the fact that by far the most influential background was Judaism. To me, asking why Christianity doesn’t incorporate reincarnation is like asking why Buddhists do not observe a kosher diet – they’re simply separate traditions.

    (As a side note, I don’t believe in reincarnation either – it seems more like a good fairy tale to me. I can see why it might make for a good story-telling device.)

  4. Years and years ago I read a couple of novels in which reincarnation played a role and thought it was an intriguing idea. But I don’t buy it, and honestly, it goes against what I believe as a priest and Christian.

    But I don’t buy that Catholic line either. And I’ve become wary of religious history in novels because it so often has an agenda and is inaccurate. Dan Brown is a case in point–the claims he makes about the validity and accuracy of historical fact in DaVinci code are hogwash.

  5. The book sounds interesting. Reincarnation also sounds interesting. Do I believe in it? Probably not. My innate fairness kinda likes the idea of karma — what comes around goes around in your next life. It would be cool if it was true. And you could remember your previous life. Except, you know, if you were a slug or something.

  6. Loukia, you could read “Cider House Rules” by John Irving. I loved “Owen Meany”..I remember I laughed out loud. One life is confusing enough, so no reincarnation for me.

  7. Colleen, I forgot Cider House Rules was John Irving! That was a good read. Loukia, one of my fave books of all time is World According to Garp by John Irving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *