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The Altar Steps   By: (1883-1972)

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The Altar Steps by Compton MacKenzie is a thought-provoking novel that delves into the complexities of religion, love, and morality. Set in a quaint village on the Scottish coast, the story follows the lives of three main characters who find themselves caught in a web of forbidden desires and spiritual dilemmas.

MacKenzie's narrative style is rich and descriptive, painting vivid pictures of the Scottish landscape and the idyllic village life. The author successfully captures the essence of the era in which the story is set, immersing readers in the social and cultural nuances of the early 20th century. His attention to detail is commendable, bringing to life the intricate webs of relationships and the inner turmoil each character faces.

One of the central themes explored in The Altar Steps is the conflict between religious duty and personal desires. Through the character of Dr. Umphray, a clergyman who struggles with his faith and his passion for a married woman, MacKenzie masterfully navigates the fine line between devotion to God and the complexities of human emotion. The author raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of faith and the challenges one faces when confronted with temptation.

The characterization in The Altar Steps is superb, with each character displaying depth, complexity, and realistic flaws. The portrayal of Christine, a conflicted woman trapped in an unhappy marriage, is particularly compelling. Her struggles with society's expectations and her own internal battles are deeply relatable, evoking empathy and compassion from readers.

Despite these strengths, the novel does have its shortcomings. At times, the pacing feels slow, with lengthy descriptions and philosophical musings that may not appeal to all readers. Additionally, some of the supporting characters lack development, serving primarily as sounding boards or catalysts for the main protagonists' actions.

Overall, The Altar Steps is a captivating exploration of themes that are timeless and universally relevant. Compton MacKenzie's beautiful prose and insightful observations make this novel a compelling read for those interested in delving into the complexities of human nature, morality, and the eternal struggle to reconcile our desires with our sense of duty.

First Page:




Author of "Carnival," "Youth's Encounter," "Poor Relations," etc.


The only portrait in this book is of one who is now dead

THIS BOOK, THE PRELUDE TO The Parson's Progress


S. Valentine's Day, 1922.


I The Bishop's Shadow

II The Lima Street Mission

III Religious Education

IV Husband and Wife

V Palm Sunday

VI Nancepean

VII Life at Nancepean

VIII The Wreck

IX Slowbridge

X Whit Sunday

XI Meade Cantorum

XII The Pomeroy Affair

XIII Wych on the Wold

XIV St. Mark's Day

XV The Scholarship

XVI Chatsea

XVII The Drunken Priest

XVIII Silchester College Mission

XIX The Altar for the Dead

XX Father Rowley

XXI Points of View

XXII Sister Esther Magdalene

XXIII Malford Abbey

XXIV The Order of St. George

XXV Suscipe Me, Domine

XXVI Addition

XXVII Multiplication

XXVIII Division

XXIX Subtraction

XXX The New Bishop of Silchester

XXXI Silchester Theological College

XXXII Ember Days




Frightened by some alarm of sleep that was forgotten in the moment of waking, a little boy threw back the bedclothes and with quick heart and breath sat listening to the torrents of darkness that went rolling by... Continue reading book >>

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