If it was coming, as everyone said it would, Covid came at the ‘right’ time for us! We’d had a good summer. We’d had two or three chances to get away followed by time with friends and our children and grandchildren. Then, as the evenings drew in, Covid struck. We were both thankful that the worst was over in two or three days. Since then, we’re fine but our energy levels haven’t quite returned to normal. A perfect excuse to catch up with some reading!
Thanks to (our daughter) Emma’s publishing job, our supply of new books is frequently replenished. From the latest crop I’ve really enjoyed ‘Small Things Like These’ by Claire Keegan, – a pearl of a novella where every word counts. The story was inspired by Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries where thousands of single mothers were hidden and forced to work in convents with the collusion of both church and state. Many mothers and babies lost their lives. The story follows the response of a coal merchant whose connection to the convent works out as the story progresses. A book in the best tradition of Irish literature.
Another book which hardly shows a religious organisation in the best light is Ostriches and Canaries, the latest book by our dear friend, Gilbert Valentine. It shines a fascinating spotlight on the struggles of church leaders to maintain unity in a global Christian community where higher education leads academics to question various aspects of church doctrine. Particularly interesting for those of us who lived and worked during the time under discussion. I gobbled it up as if it were a thriller!
The award-winning Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie is another of Emma’s donations! It’s a fictional account of the family of a radicalised young Muslim and his two sisters with echoes of the Greek tragedy Antigone. It offers amazing insights into the ISIS recruitment process while being a great page turner.
I read Maybe I Don’t Belong Here by the distinguished British actor, David Harewood in a couple of sittings during this Black History Month. It’s a memoir of Harewood’s acting life interspersed with his experience of racism and its effect on his mental health. A book as brave as the BBC documentary by Harewood, Psychosis and Me...which I watched afterwards....sobering stuff!
The Maid by Nita Prose revolves around the central character Molly the Maid and the tension between her inner life and what colleagues and customers project on to her in the hotel where she works. The story focuses on friendships, family and power relationships and, rather unusually for a page-turner, leaves the reader with existential questions about all our perceptions especially of those we describe as ‘on the spectrum’.
My final recommendation is Raging with Compassion – a pastoral response to the problem of evil. Regular readers of the blog may guess that the problems faced by our littlest grandson, now 7 months old and still in and out of hospital, have concentrated my mind on the easy responses religious people sometimes make to the sort of difficulties faced by our son and his wife.
The author, Professor John Swinton, a former mental health nurse and a leading practical theologian, has the ability to make complex theological and philosophical ideas accessible and the professional experience and pastoral spirit to offer helpful alternatives. Plenty of food for thought on the everlasting question, ‘Why does a good God allow evil?’
So! - there's my autumn reading list...not always comforting but it certainly kept Covid 'sufferings' in proportion!