The first part of Christopher Burns’ curious book focuses on photographer Gregory Pharaoh’s obsessive sexual attraction to Alice Fell. In classic paradigm, Alice is no more than the object of the male sexual drive. Burns may be presenting some accurate reflections in suggesting that the gender relationship is not holistic, but a front for sexual desire. This is the first bleak perspective, written in the style of a cheap thrill. Alice in turn exercises her power to manipulate the men who fall for her, leaving her partner Thomas Laidlaw devastated. Here is the bleak response.
The book then changes pace and style. The description of walking through the bracken of the moors is powerful, evocative writing of a higher genre. It’s now quality literature. But Burns then introduces the rather artificial device of a thunderbolt from heaven twice, once to burn out a church, and once to burn out his two leading characters on the moors. Its result is to catapult Gregory Pharaoh from being captivated by a superficial sexually led view of relationship, to a superficial entrapment by religious kitsch. An ultimately bleak perspective of religion as of relationships. A holistic approach to both relationship and religion can offer better.