Cover image for Holy smoke : a novel
Holy smoke : a novel
Campion, Anna, 1952-
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First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion, 1999.
Physical Description:
259 pages ; 22 cm
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In Holy Smoke, sisters Anna and Jane Campion have fashioned a novel of fierce originality. The story begins in late November 1998, with an Australian familys decision to rescue their daughter Ruth from the attentions of an Indian Guru. Feeling overwhelmed, they invest in the services of an American cult specialist, PJ Waters. Two days later, out in the Australian bush, the balance of power has slowly shifted between counselor and client. What starts as a spiritual struggle about the nature of belief becomes an erotic and disturbing tale of sexual obsession, forcing Ruth and PJ to explore a relationship neither had wanted to make.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Boundaries blur in this novel by the sisters Campion. Both are writers and directors, with Jane the better known for her film The Piano (1993). Their collaboration is being published under the new imprint of Miramax Books in anticipation of the release of the movie version starting Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel, and because this entertaining if facile tale is the basis for a screenplay, its style is overtly camera-ready. Ruth, the heroine, is a young and feisty Australian who came under the influence of an unscrupulous guru while traveling in India. Her panicked family hires a cult specialist from New York, P. J. Waters, to bring her to her senses. Ruth and P. J. are sequestered in a small hut on the sunbaked outback, where Ruth easily deflects P. J.'s lame strategies, and instigates a far more intimate form of therapy. The dialogue is amusing and the setting dramatic, but the writing is uneven, and the story, concocted purely for its potential cinematic eroticism, is kitschy. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Sisters Anna and Jane Campion (the Australian directors responsible for such films as Loaded and The Piano) have collaborated on this intriguing though rambling first novel. Twenty-year-old Ruth Baron is dragged back from India, where she has joined a bizarre cult, to her parent's home outside of Sydney. Once there, her family forces her to undergo an intensive "exiting" process meant to de-program her from the insidious influence of the cult's leader, Chidaatma Baba. The expert recruited for the job is P.J. (John) Waters, a world-weary fellow in his mid-50s who flies in from New York and secludes himself with the rebellious young woman for the three-day intensive treatment. At first, they circle each other suspiciously; John is aggressive, and Ruth fights him every step of the way. Soon, distrust gives way to a dangerous and undeniable mutual passion. Other characters in this heaving, breathless novelÄRuth's vague, teary mother, older brothers and bumbling sister-in-lawÄseem to function as clueless comic foils for the burgeoning intensity between Ruth and John. The authors successfully demonstrate the seductive pull of cults and are at their best when transforming Ruth's need for spiritual guidance into her psychosexual delirium. The narrative, told from the alternating points of view of John and Ruth, has a hazy, druggy quality, which is ambiguous and confusing. The fact that this tale is the book version of an upcoming film starring Harvey Keitel and Kate Winslet contributes to the reader's likely awareness that thenovel is a sketchy, early version of its more fitting cinematic manifestation. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved