In Father and Son, Edmund Gosse’s great memoir of his Victorian childhood, he writes of the event that first made him aware of his own self as independent being—and set him on the path away from the faith of his father: “My Mother always deferred to my Father, and in his absence spoke to me, as if he were all-wise. I confused him in some sense with God; at all events I believed that my Father knew everything and saw everything.” One day, Gosse heard his father relate an anecdote of an occurrence at which mother and son had been present. “I remember turning quickly, in embarrassment, and looking into the fire. The shock to me was as that of a thunderbolt, for what my Father said ‘was not true.’”

Gosse’s work comes early to mind while reading James Wood’s first novel, The Book Against God. Its narrator is a variation on the same theme. Thomas Bunting is the son of an...

 
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