Thea Astley: The Acolyte


The latest addition to my website is Thea Astley‘s The Acolyte. This novel is now out of print in the UK and US, which is a shame, as it is an excellent novel about both an artist who is thoroughly self-centred and a man who has no sense of purpose and worth, who becomes the acolyte of the artist. The artist is Jack Holberg, a blind musician, who starts out as a performer but becomes a celebrated composer. The acolyte is Paul Vesper, a man from a middle-class family, who has no idea what he wants in life or what career to follow. He drifts into engineering, almost drifts out of his studies, but carries on and gets a job, at which he is clearly not happy and which he eventually leaves for good. All the while he and we are following the rise of Jack Holberg, a man who uses his blindness, both to attract women – he takes Hilda, who was seemingly engaged to Vesper, and uses her as he uses everyone else – and to control and abuse others. Despite this, Paul hangs on, aware that he is merely a follower, perhaps, as someone calls him, Holberg’s eunuch. Astley tells her story very well, with a good supporting cast, also caught up in the Holberg sphere.

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