A Fifth of November

Written by Paul West
Review by Kathy King

England during the reign of James I was a time of fear and persecution for Catholic Jesuits. A Fifth of November is a story that portrays the life of Jesuit priest Father Garnet and describes what he must endure. He goes from one parishioner’s home to another to worship privately.  The government is always trying to apprehend him, forcing him to hide in cubbyholes not large enough for him to stand upright.  Eventually, through confessionals, he learns about the Gunpowder plot to blow up Parliament and the King.

The author uses a rhapsodic style that made the reading difficult. West writes the story as if the reader is in seventeenth century England, but at times refers to Hitler.  In this, West demonstrates that no matter the era, human beings can and will do evil to each other.  Without prior knowledge of the time period, readers may not find much interest in the story.  However, I recommend this book to anyone who would like to understand the social and political persecution of the Jesuits.