Q: A review

I already posted this review on Goodreads.  If y’all’re interested in reading the synopsis, just click the linked title below.  And if you’ve already read Q, I’d love to hear what you think in my Comments section.  You know, way down yonder at the bottom.


Q by Luther Blissett, translated by Shaun Whiteside.  Rated 3 of 5 stars, “liked it”, and shelved it as Christianity, European, historical fiction, novel, and Reformation on Goodreads.

The Middle Ages and the Early Modern period are two of my favorite reading subjects, and I love novels about both, so there was little chance I wasn’t going to like Q.

I’ve read a slew of reviews that denigrate Q as a literary stunt and an extended inside joke coauthored by 4 pseudonymous leftist Italians who are trying to rewrite European history. While I have no serious reason to doubt those claims, I also have no ability to assess their validity.

Given my relative ignorance of the local cultural and historical nuances of the various themes in play, I was able to enjoy the novel for what on the surface it so clearly is: the fast-paced adventure tale of a many-named narrator who starts as a young, wide-eyed student and idealist religious reformer and progresses through stages over the next 40+ years to reluctant soldier, subversive & militant religious reformer, brawler, brothel owner, spy, and conspirator in massive economic and literary crimes. Oh, and most importantly, arch-nemesis, occasional unwitting ally, and lifelong counterpart to the eponymous Q, epistolary spy to the eventual Pope Paul IV.

This novel, as densely layered as it is thick, for the most part moves at a breakneck pace and has just about everything: action, adventure, espionage, urban and battlefield combat, melee, economic intrigue, philosophical and theological debate, and everywhere the mud, blood, stink, and struggle of oppressed European commoners from Wittenberg in East Germany west to Antwerp, Belgium then south and east again to Venice, Italy.

Although Q weighs in at 750+ pages, and it took me 10 days to read, every time I cracked it open, I was reluctant to snap it closed. If you liked Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose or Baudolino, you’ll probably like Q. I sure did.


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