Books Read in June

I read 10 books in June. As usual they’re a mixed bag and I enjoyed some books more than others. I realised in May that I’d accumulated a number of review books, so I thought I’d better get reading them! The titles marked * are crime fiction and those in italics are non-fiction. With links to my posts they are:

  1. The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter – a review copy, beautifully written, a dual time novel alternating between 1971 and the Second World War.
  2. Pictures at an Exhibition by Camilla Macpherson – a review copy, compelling reading and another a dual time period novel moving between the present day and the Second World War. 
  3. North Sea Cottage* by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen – a review copy, yet another dual time novel of now and the 1940s, set in Denmark. Very atmospheric crime fiction as the discovery of a skeleton solves an earlier mystery.
  4. He Wants by Alison Moore – a fourth review novel, about ageing and unfulfilled expectations – sadly not really my cup of tea.
  5. Leaving Alexandria: a Memoir of Faith and Doubt by Richard Holloway – fascinating about his life, career and beliefs.
  6. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng – still not sure what I think about this book, I may have to re-read it sometime.
  7. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly – fantasy, a re-telling fairy tales and folk tales; it didn’t leave me with a chill down my spine, but just feeling rather sick at times.
  8. Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice – an excellent biography of twin sisters who discovered an ancient copy of the Gospels on Mount Sinai.
  9. The Discourtesy of Death* by William Brodrick – very good (post to follow).
  10. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – a book I thought I’d read years ago, only to discover I hadn’t. It feels as though I’ve discovered a new author!

It’s hard to decide which one I enjoyed the most, but on balance I think it has to be Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Found the Hidden Gospels by Janet Soskice

Sisters of Sinai

 As half the year has gone I thought it was a good time to see where I’m up to with the challenges I’m doing.

Reading Challenges progress up to 30 June (for details of these challenges see my Challenges page):

  • Mount TBR Reading Challenge – 30 of my own unread books. My target is 48.
  • Read Scotland Challenge –11 books. My target 13+.
  • What’s in a Name 7 – I’ve completed 5 of the 6 sections – just  a ‘book with a school subject in the title’ to read.
  • Historical Fiction Challenge – 12 books. My target is 25 books.
  • Colour Coded Challenge – 3 books. The target is to read 9 books in the different colour categories.
  • The Agatha Christie Reading Challenge – 3 books. This is an open-ended challenge to read all her books. So far I have read 58.
  • My Kind of Mystery Challenge – 17 books. My target is 31+.
  • Once Upon a Time VIII Challenge – 5 books completing the Challenge for Quest the First.
  • Reading Non-Fiction in 2014 - this is my own ‘challenge’ to record the non-fiction I read. I’m aiming at reading at least 12 books this year and so far I’ve read 5 - with just 35% of Peter Ackroyd’s biography of Shakespeare to finish I’m nearly half way to my target.
Posted in Books, Challenges | 6 Comments

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

For years I’ve thought I’d read all of Jane Austen’s books, apart from Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sanditon, but then last year I wondered about Mansfield Park, and I realised I couldn’t remember much about it. At first I thought it was one of those books I must have read years ago and forgotten the detail. So, I thought I’d have a look at it again to refresh my memory, but when I looked for my copy I couldn’t find it and slowly I began to think I hadn’t read it at all and bought one. And, lo and behold it was totally new to me – I hadn’t even watched the TV version!

On the surface Mansfield Park is a simple story about a family and their relationships. Fanny Price, as a child of 10 goes to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram at Mansfield Park, where as the poor relation she is not treated badly, but not as cared for or as kindly as her cousins, but more as an unpaid servant dependent on the family for her welfare – a sort of Cinderella story.

But through the story, Jane Austen reveals the complicated interaction of society, shows the development of Fanny’s character and the depiction of a heroine who is good and gentle who matures throughout the novel. Fanny is an unassuming character who at first appears to be too self-effacing and timed, but who grows in strength of character. I think it’s a very clever portrayal because the reader sees things through Fanny’s eyes. Whilst at first I wanted to give her a shake and say pull yourself together, you’re being a doormat, I realised that Jane Austen was drawing a realistic portrait and waited to see how she would develop.

Like the other novels, Mansfield Park is full of detail of everyday life, its boredom as well as its entertainments and pleasures, the  balls and dinners. There is much in it about the houses and gardens, not only of the wealthy but also of the lower classes, such as Fanny’s parents home in Portsmouth – but they have servants themselves, so it is only comparative poverty. Seen mainly through Fanny’s eyes, it’s a study of morals, the damage caused by being unwanted and unloved.

There is, of course, so much more to say about this book – Mrs Norris’s snobbery, her obsession with  penny-pinching and her nasty, spiteful behaviour; the opinion of clergymen, seen through Mary Crawford’s mercenary eyes as she thinks about Edmund Bertram’s position; the flirty behaviour of the ‘charming’ Henry Crawford; the apparent coldness of Sir Thomas and his family’s distance from him; Lady Bertram’s languid life from her sofa; the disruption caused by the play and so on. There is also a gentle strain of humour and satirical observations about contemporary values, and even, with Mary Crawford’s pun on ‘Rears and Vices‘, a bawdy note.

Yes, I definitely like Mansfield Park and pleased it came up for me in the Classics Club Spin, which gave me the necessary push to read it in June.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Classics, Fiction, Mount TBR Challenge 2014, The Classics Club | Tagged | 10 Comments

Mount TBR Checkpoint 2: June 2014

It’s time for the second quarterly check-in post for Bev’s Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2014. The months are speeding by! Bev asks:

1. Tell us how many miles you’ve made it up your mountain (# of books read). 

I’ve read 30 of my TBRs, so I’m nearly at the top of Mt Vancouver with just six more books to go. The list of books I’ve read is here. These last three months I’ve read 6.5 books. I did much better in the first 3 months of the year as I only read from my own shelves then, reading 23.5 books. But after that I’ve read mainly library books and books I’ve recently acquired.

To reach my target of Mt Ararat (48 books) by the end of the year I really will have to concentrate on books I’ve had on my shelves since before the beginning of this year.

2. Use titles from your list to complete as many of the following as you can. If you haven’t read enough books to give you good choices, then feel free to use any books yet to be read from your piles. I’ve given my answers as examples. Feel free to add words (such as “a” or “the” or others that clarify) as needed.

My Day in Books

I began the day with Ethan Frome
before breakfasting on Five Little Pigs. (No, I really wouldn’t eat even one little pig!!)

On my way to work I saw Mansfield Park
and walked by Cannery Row
to avoid The Crow Trap
but I made sure to stop at The Thirty-Nine Steps.

In the office, my boss said, The Grass is Singing
and sent me to research Shakespeare’s Restless World .

At lunch with Nemesis
I noticed  The Lost Army of Cambyses
playing a game of Not Dead Enough.

When I got home that night,
I studied [the] Cloud Atlas
because I’m interested in  The Sea Change
and I decided that They Do it with Mirrors.

Posted in Books, Challenges, Mount TBR Challenge 2014 | 6 Comments

Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice

Sisters of SinaiThe full title of this book is Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Found the Hidden Gospels. This is biography so well written that it almost reads like a novel. In fact, if this was a novel I would think it was a most unlikely story of twin sisters in the latter half of the nineteenth century, travelling to St Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai where they discover one of the earliest copies of the Gospels written in ancient Syriac.

Janet Soskice has written a compelling account of two Scottish sisters – Agnes and Margaret Smith born in 1843 in Irvine, a town south-west of Glasgow. Their mother died two weeks after they were born and they were brought up by their father, John Smith. He was unusual in that he gave his daughters an unconventional education for that period. He approved of independence of mind and foreign travel. The girls had an aptitude for languages and mastered French, German, Spanish and Italian whilst they were still quite young – helped by visits to each country. Their taste for learning, travels and adventure was set for life with long hours of study and plenty of exercise. Add to this intensely-held Presbyterian beliefs and Bible study.

John Smith inherited a huge sum of money (today’s equivalent would be around £7 million) from a relative. He died when the twins were 23 leaving his fortune to them (which had built up considerably by then); they were very rich indeed. They decided to have a trip down the Nile. And that was just the beginning; their lives were transformed.

They learnt Greek, Arabic, Hebrew and Syriac and they returned to Egypt and Sinai many times, befriending the monks of St Catherine, despite their religious differences, and getting embroiled in disputes with Cambridge academics who were initially very reluctant to accept that these two middle-aged (by then) women with no university qualifications (women were not permitted to receive degrees from the university at that time), could possibly have found anything of value or interest to them.

What they discovered in a ‘dimly lit little room  below the prior’s quarters’ in the monastery was a dirty volume, its leaves nearly all stuck together, written in Syriac. It was a collection of lives of women saints, but written underneath that was something else that was clearly an earlier text – of the Gospels. This was a palimpsest – the earliest writing having been scraped off and overwritten at a later date, the old ink becoming visible at a later date through the effects of the atmosphere. This eventually proved that the Gospels had been written much earlier than had previously been thought, moving the date back to the late second century.

Not only is that remarkable in itself, but it is astonishing to me that these two middle-aged women travelled to Egypt, Sinai, Jerusalem and beyond at the latter half of the nineteenth century across the desert on camel or walking miles on foot. Their courage and resolve overcame all the difficulties they encountered, coping with physical discomfort and  dishonest dragomen abroad and the hostility and scepticism at home.

I would never have known of this enthralling book if it hadn’t been for Cath’s review of it on Read-Warbler. I was intrigued and looked for it in my library straight away and was delighted to find that there was a copy in another branch.  Biographies and historical books are probably my most favourite of non-fiction books and accounts of  the Bible and how it came to be compiled have long been of interest to me, but I hadn’t come across these two sisters before. Janet Soskine has throughly researched her subject and the book is complemented by a ‘select’ bibliography that runs to nearly 5 pages and an extensive index.

This is an excellent non-fiction book, just right for Peggy Ann’s Read Scotland 2014 Challenge.

Posted in Biography, Book Reviews, Books, History, Library Books, Non-fiction, Read Scotland 2014, Religion | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter…

letter LSimon T of Stuck In A Book has started another meme. He randomly generates a letter for you and then you have to name your favourite book, author,song, film and favourite object beginning with that particular letter.

  My letter is … L

I didn’t find it very easy – in some cases I had too much choice and in others (eg favourite object) very little choice.

Favourite Book … here is where I’m spoilt for choice, with Lark Rise to Candleford (Flora Thompson), The Last Enchantment (Mary Stewart), Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Pierre Choderlos de Laclos), The Last Time They Met (Anita Shreve) and The Light Years (Elizabeth Jane Howard) in the running. but I’ve decided on

Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski, a book I read a couple of years ago. It’s a beautiful book – one of those that once I start reading I can’t put down, and yet a book that I don’t want to finish as I’m enjoying it so much. This book is emotional, heart-wrenching and nerve-wracking, full of tension, but never sentimental.

Favourite Author … well it could be Marghanita Laski, Harper Lee, Laurie Lee, Donna Leon or Andrea Levy, but it has to be:

Penelope Lively, an all-time favourite and I’ve read more of her books than the other authors’.

Favourite Song …  Let It Be by the Beatles

Favourite Film … for the letter L it has to be The Lord of the Rings, which could equally as well be my favourite book, especially as I prefer the book (my own images etc).

Favourite Object … I found this the hardest one of all and in the end I decided on this:

Yoghurt maker

This is my Lakeland electric yoghurt maker, which I’ve had for years and use every week. It makes lovely yoghurt. All you do is put in a couple of spoons of natural yoghurt and some milk and the yoghurt maker does the rest. I strain it to make it even thicker – like Greek yoghurt. 

Thinking of ‘objects’ on a wider scale there are of course, Libraries!

 If you’d like to join in go on over to Simon’s post (link back at the top) and wait for your letter.

Posted in Memes | 6 Comments

Once Upon a Time VIII Challenge Completed

Once upon a time viiiCarl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge for this year ended on 21 June and I exceeded my expectations – well, it wasn’t hard as I aimed very low with The Journey, which was to read at least one book within one of the four categories of Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology. So I went on to the First Quest which was to read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within those categories.

Quest the first

I read:

  1. The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart
  2. Tantalus by Jane Jazz
  3. The Wicked Day by Mary Stewart
  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  5. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

I initially wanted to read from my own to-be-read books, but as usual I actually read books that appealed to me at the moment of choosing what to read next, but two of them were books I’ve owned for some years – The Last Enchantment, an excellent book and The Book of Lost Things, not such an excellent book in my opinion.

Choosing a favourite out of these books is not easy but by a short head it’s Jane Jazz’s début novel TantalusThere is so much in this book that I loved – the characters, the story, the charged emotions and longing, the setting (in Yorkshire and Tuscany), and the art – the paintings and the sculpture. 

Tantalus is a perfect title for the novel as according to Greek myth Tantalus was famous for eternal punishment by being made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink.

Thanks to Carl for hosting and I’m already looking forward to September and his R.I.P. Challenge.

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Once Upon a Time | 6 Comments

New Books

I’m looking forward to these new books that will be published later this year from two of my favourite authors:

In September Ann Cleeves’ latest book in her Shetland series Thin Air:

A group of old university friends are on holiday in Unst, Shetland’s most northerly island, to celebrate the wedding of one of their friends to a Shetlander. But late on the night of the wedding party one of them, Eleanor, disappears – apparently into thin air.

It’s mid-summer, a time of light nights and unexpected mists. The next day Eleanor’s best friend Polly receives an email from her saying she’ll never be found alive. And so it seems, because the woman’s body is found, lying in a small loch close to the cliff edge. Before she disappeared Eleanor claimed to have seen the ghost of Peerie Lizzie, a child who was drowned close by in the 1920s. As Detectives Jimmy Perez and Willow Reeves investigate, they, too, begin to feel that there is more to the story than meets the eye.

And in October C J Sansom’s sixth book in his Matthew Shardlake series, Lamentation is to be released. I can’t believe it’s been four years since the fifth book Heartstone was published.

Summer, 1546.

King Henry VIII is slowly, painfully dying. His Protestant and Catholic councillors are engaged in a final and decisive power struggle; whoever wins will control the government of Henry’s successor, eight-year-old Prince Edward. As heretics are hunted across London, and the radical Protestant Anne Askew is burned at the stake, the Catholic party focus their attack on Henry’s sixth wife, Matthew Shardlake’s old mentor, Queen Catherine Parr.

Shardlake, still haunted by events aboard the warship Mary Rose the year before, is working on the Cotterstoke Will case, a savage dispute between rival siblings. Then, unexpectedly, he is summoned to Whitehall Palace and asked for help by his old patron, the now beleaguered and desperate Queen.

For Catherine Parr has a secret. She has written a confessional book, Lamentation of a Sinner, so radically Protestant that if it came to the King’s attention it could bring both her and her sympathizers crashing down. But, although the book was kept secret and hidden inside a locked chest in the Queen’s private chamber, it has – inexplicably – vanished. Only one page has been found, clutched in the hand of a murdered London printer.

Shardlake’s investigations take him on a trail that begins among the backstreet printshops of London but leads him and Jack Barak into the dark and labyrinthine world of the politics of the royal court; a world he had sworn never to enter again. Loyalty to the Queen will drive him into a swirl of intrigue inside Whitehall Palace, where Catholic enemies and Protestant friends can be equally dangerous, and the political opportunists, who will follow the wind wherever it blows, more dangerous than either. 

The theft of Queen Catherine’s book proves to be connected to the terrible death of Anne Askew, while his involvement with the Cotterstoke litigants threatens to bring Shardlake himself to the stake.

Posted in Books | 3 Comments

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

I like fantasy, so when I came across The Book of Lost Things, a modern version of traditional fairy tales that has glowing reviews from various sources, I was keen to read it. Fairy tales are full of bad things happening to people, wicked stepmothers, evil witches, wolves and trolls, fantasy characters, damsels in distress and magic and enchantments, but in the end good overcomes evil and they live happily ever after.

The Book of Lost Things begins at the start of World War Two, with David, a boy of twelve, who is mourning the death of his mother, resenting his father’s new wife, Rose and his new baby brother, George. Alone in his bedroom he hears the books on the shelves murmuring and whispering in the darkness, and his fantasy world becomes peopled with the characters from his books and he dreams of the Crooked Man, waiting for him out in the woods beyond the house.

One night his dreams and nightmares become reality as he sees through a fissure in his room into another realm beyond. He falls unconscious and coming to he hears his mother calling out him to save her, saying she is not dead but trapped in a strange place. He climbs out of his window and then as a bomber crashes in the garden David escapes through the sunken garden into a different world, a world peopled by the characters from the stories he has been reading. Told that the king has a ‘Book of Lost Things’ that will help him find the way back to his own world, he is met with the most terrible and gruesome opposition.

As well as stomach churning and excruciatingly toe-curling grisly detail there are some very dark episodes in this book with an element of moralising within the story from a number of ‘father figures’ David meets, for example the Woodsman and the knight Roland who tells him that life is filled with threats and dangers.

It is indeed filled with danger but the book becomes a sequence of ‘this happened and then that happened’, of showing rather than telling. The writing is flat; there is no sense of suspense, David is attacked and goes on to fight battle after battle as the characters helping him are killed off. There are his battles against the Loups, wolves who dress like men. He has to answer a riddle to choose the right bridge to cross a chasm thronged with harpies. He meets seven dwarves  dominated by an obese Snow White, her face caked with white make-up (this story is quite funny actually with its references to communism). He comes across a peasant village terrorised by a monstrous loathsome worm which gives birth in mid-battle. He eventually finds the castle of thorns where his mother may be imprisoned, and then finally the great castle of the ancient and now dying king, the guardian of the ‘book of lost things’. And behind it all is the sinister and evil Crooked Man.

I quite liked the concept of this book, it promised much, but I didn’t like its gruesomeness, the torture chambers, the animal and human experimentations, the sexual innuendos, nor did I like the ending, which I thought was weak. These details didn’t leave me with a chill down my spine, but just feeling rather sick.

Still, it seems an appropriate book to include in the Once Upon a Time Challenge, which ended yesterday and certainly for the Mount To Be Read Challenge as it has sat unread on my shelves for 7 years. Maybe fairy stories are no longer magical for me, this one wasn’t.

I can almost hear the rest of my books muttering, well thank goodness that one’s on its way out of the house.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Mount TBR Challenge 2014, Once Upon a Time | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Library Loot

I like to support the mobile library that comes round once a fortnight. I am always amazed that in such a small selection of books I always find such a wide variety – apart from the Art books that is, the choice in that section is very limited, but I suppose most people want to read fiction.

These books are ones that I’ve borrowed recently:

Library Loot Brodrick

From top to bottom:

  • The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle – I fancied a cheerful book and as the quote on the front cover says this is ‘a feel-good book for the summer over a glass of vintage rosé’ I thought it may be just the book to read right now.

First sentence:

Shock has a chilling effect, particularly when it takes the form of an unexpected meeting with a man from whom you have recently stolen three million dollars worth of wine.

  • The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin – I’ve never read any books by Toibin, so I thought this short book, about Mary the mother of Jesus, might be the place to start. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year.

First sentence:

They appear more often now, both of them, and on every visit they seem more impatient with me and with the world.

  • Off the Record: a Jack Haldean Mystery by Dolores Gordon-Smith, crime fiction, described on the front cover as ‘eccentric, unusual, suspenseful and gripping’. Gordon-Smith is a new-to-me author and I came across her on Cath’s blog Read-Warbler.

First sentence:

It was the summer of 1899 when Charles Otterbourne first came to Stoke Horam.

  • The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier – I’ve liked the two books by Chevalier that I’ve read, so on the strength of that I thought I’d have a look at this historical fiction, set in Ohio in the 1850s.

First sentence:

She could not go back.

  • Four Sisters: the Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses by Helen Rappaport. A big book of biography about the tragic fate of the sisters in the dying days of the Romanov dynasty. It appeals to me, especially after seeing a programme a short while ago on the BBC The Royal Cousins at War, George (England), Willie (Germany) and Nicky (Russia).

First sentence:

The day they sent the Romanovs away the Alexander Palace became forlorn and forgotten – a palace of ghosts.

  • The Discourtesy of Death by William Brodrick, the fifth Father Anselm book. I didn’t have to think at all about whether to borrow this book as Brodrick is most definitely one of my favourite authors. His books always give me lots to think about and this one promises to do just that.

The book begins with a Prologue, but I’m quoting the first few sentences of chapter 1:

‘There is no God’, murmured Anselm.

‘You’re going a bit far there’, replied Bede, Larkwood Priory’s tubby archivist.

‘No, I’m not. This is one of those moments of insight that sent Nietzsche over the edge.’

Anselm stared in horror at the open pages of the Sunday Times, laid out for all to see, on the table in the monastery’s library. The title ran: ‘The Monk who Left it All for a Life of Crime.’

I can’t wait to read this last book, but I have to finish another library book first - Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice, a fascinating biography of twin sisters, Agnes and Margaret and their amazing travels in the 19th century to Cairo, taking a trip down the Nile and later to Mount Sinai, where they discovered one of the earliest copies of the Gospels written in ancient Syriac. This is another book recommended by Cath on her blog, Read-Warbler.

Sisters of Sinai

Posted in Books, Library Loot | 10 Comments

Leaving Alexandria by Richard Holloway

I was browsing the biography section in the local library when I came across Leaving Alexandria: a Memoir of Faith and Doubt by Richard Holloway. I vaguely remembered that he had been an outspoken bishop who had resigned some years ago and I thought it would be interesting to read what had led up to his resignation. The blurbs on the back encouraged me to borrow the book:

This poignant memoir, written with integrity, intelligence and wit, lays bare the ludicrous and entirely unnecessary mess we have made of religion. (Karen Armstrong)

and:

So compelling and so intense. Nobody, whether interested in religion or not, could fail to be intensely moved … What a deeply lovable man; and what a wonderful book. (Mary Warnock, Observer)

In the past I have read many books on religion, mainly on Christianity, but I am not currently a church goer and I know little about the Anglican Church and next to nothing about the Scottish Episcopal Church – Richard Holloway was the Primus of the latter. Reading Richard Holloway’s own account of his beliefs and doubts was without doubt an eye-opener.

Leaving Alexandria is fascinating. Richard Holloway grew up in Alexandria, a town in the Vale of Leven, north of Glasgow. At the age of fourteen he left home to train for the priesthood at Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire, the mother house of  the Anglo-Catholic Society of the Sacred Mission, an order that trained uneducated boys for the priesthood in a monastic setting. Subsequently, he worked in Africa, the Gorbals in Glasgow, Boston, and Old Saint Paul’s in Edinburgh before becoming the Bishop of Edinburgh. His resignation in 2000 as the Bishop of Edinburgh came when he was 66.

He had a controversial career, dubbed the ‘Barmy Bishop’. He was an outspoken champion of progressive causes, but he had many crises of faith and at times was plagued with doubt, experiencing God as an absence. To me that sounds as though he wasn’t sure about the existence of God. He ponders whether religion is a lie and states that it is a ‘mistake’:

I was less sure whether God was also just a human invention, but I was quite sure religion was. It was a work of human imagination, a work of art – an opera – and could be appreciated as such.  The real issue was whether it should be given more authority over us than any other work of art, especially if it is the kind of authority that over rides our own better judgements. (page 343)

In the Epilogue he explained that he came to believe that

Religion is human, and like humanity it is both a glory and a scandal. It is full of pity and full of cruelty. Just like us. So is the Bible.

He went on that he had discovered his real dilemma:

I wanted to keep religion around, purged of cruelty, because it gives us a space to wonder and listen within. Purged of the explanations that don’t explain, the science that does not prove, the morality that does not improve; purged in fact, of its prose, religion’s poetry could still touch us, make us weep, make us tender, and take us out of ourselves into the possibility of a courageous pity. (page 345)

He resigned at odds with many strongly held Episcopal Church doctrines and beliefs, and precipitated by the publication of his book Godless Morality. It was because of the Church’s insistence on rules, its attitudes towards women and homosexuals, and its inability to understand the nature of myth. But he had struggled all the way through, feeling himself a disappointment, often knowing that he was a ‘double-minded man’ and ‘unstable, if not in all my ways, then certainly in many of my attitudes and opinions. Janus-like, I seemed able to look two ways at once, be in two minds about things.’  My question is not why he resigned, but why it took him so long, and how had he become a bishop at all?

There are many things about Richard Holloway that I like, but overarching them all is his compassion and his honesty. There are so many passages I could quote, including this one describing the opponents of women’s ordination:

‘Oh the miserable buggers, the mean-minded wee sods.’ (page 309)

I am sure that I have not really done justice to this book and refer to this review of Leaving Alexandria by Mary Warnock in The Guardian/The Observer 19 February 2012 and to an interview with Richard Holloway at the Gladstone’s Library 26 February 2012.

Posted in Books, Memoirs, Non-fiction, Read Scotland 2014, Reading Non-Fiction 2014, Religion | Tagged , | 4 Comments