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The Rapture By Claire McGlasson

A Review By Phaidra Robinson

When it comes to cults, the first thought most people have is of California and the 70’s, during the rise of such groups – Reverend Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre or Scientology tend to come to mind. A matriarchal society led by the ‘Daughter of God’ based in Bedford is not a typical image, but this novel manages to convey the dramatic politics not only of small communities in general but also the specific dynamics of this cult.

Claire McGlasson’s debut novel The Rapture is a thrilling and in-depth fictional account of the Panacea Society of Bedford, informed by Dilys Baltrop’s experiences. The Panacea Society is led by a formidable matriarch called Octavia – so called for being the eighth in a line of prophets – who has cast off her old identity and responsibilities in order to find religious symbolism in every action, creating ‘healing’ water and controlling the members of her group. The inner circle she surrounds herself with include Betty, a servant, Peter, a weak-willed man who kowtows to her every whim, and Emily, who acts as her right-hand woman.

Dilys watches this group from the outside, on the fringes of the inner circle, both awed by and scared of the group she cannot be a part of. Dilys’ paranoia and feeling of claustrophobia is fuelled by the knowledge that she is constantly watched, as in the tightly controlled society that Octavia has created, any transgressions will be reported. In a bid to briefly escape this oppressive society and their Bedford Eden she attends a regular Christian church where she laughs at their differing beliefs, and meets Grace, who she feels an instant connection to. Dilys is forced to choose between her feelings for Grace and continuing in ignorance of the truth that her brother tries to tell her – the rapture is not coming and Octavia is using their fear of the apocalypse to keep her power.

McGlasson successfully creates a tension through her realistic characterisation of Dilys and Grace that keeps the reader hungry for more, while the threat of God’s wrath creates an understandable conflict for Dilys when choosing between her past and the future she wants. There were some tedious parts but the more dramatic plot points more than made up for this and I look forward to McGlasson’s future novels.

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