Sometimes you come across a book which you just want to carry about with you until you finish it. Such was Jubilate which I think was recommended to me by Fr Kelvin. Fans of Arditti will remember that he wrote that wonderful novel Easter which rocked the church back in 2000. The joy of Arditti’s books is that he knows the church from the inside out. He doesn’t write about a fictional church but the real thing. It may be the reality that the church would rather not discuss, but it is the reality that many of us know and wish we could share.
Jubilate is centred around a pilgrimage to Lourdes over the course of a week. Gillian, a good Catholic, has taken her husband Richard, who is suffering from brain damage which has left him with the worst (and lewd) behaviour of a teenager, along with his mother Patricia, a devotee of the Lourdes pilgrimage. Gillian doesn’t really have much faith in Lourdes and goes reluctantly and slightly standoffishly but is drawn into it by the stories of the other pilgrims.
Vincent is a Television producer making a programme about Lourdes with permission to follow this particular group of pilgrims around. He is an atheist and a cynic, with a Roman Catholic childhood behind him. AS his story develops you discover that he is as wounded as the pilgrims around him.
Within moments of meeting Gillian at the airport he falls in love with her and their affair is the topic of the book. Arditti uses a strange format wherein Gillian’s story goes chapter by chapter from the end of the week to the beginning, and Vincent’s story does the opposite. I think this might have worked if I’d been able to read it all in one sitting but I did find it a little bit repetative in bits and confused because of that. But that is really a minor grumble because I became so engrossed in their story and liked them so much that I’d have read any style to find out how it all worked out for them.