Book Review

Books in Brief: Willa Cather, Miguel Pro, & Agatha Christie

I’ve read a few books recently.  If you’re interested, my thoughts are below.

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Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

Willa Cather is one of my favorite authors.  The way she writes about the land–the prairie in particular–is deeply moving.  I suppose it’s because I grew up on a farm, and I have vivid memories of climbing grain bins only to watch the sun set on acres and acres of corn.

But it’s not just the way in which Cather writes about land, though, that is admirable.  No, it’s the way in which she writes about people, especially those early settlers.  Her stories remind me of my ancestors and their stories.

Cather knew these farmers and immigrants–for she was one of them–and she was able to give them an unforgettable voice–a dolorous voice, for their lives were full of suffering, which brings me around to Song of the Lark.  In this novel, my favorite characters were just those who couldn’t seem to pull it together–Professor Wunsch especially, but also Fritz Kohler and perhaps Mrs. Tellamantez.

This novel, though, was my least favorite Willa Cather novel.  I didn’t like Thea Kronborg, and I didn’t like Fred Ottenburg.  In the end, Thea puts her career, wealth, and fame over her mother’s dying wish to see her one last time, and Fred wants to justify lying to Thea in order to further Thea’s career.  (Do you know, Fred reminded me of Mr. Rochester from that excellent novel Jane Eyre?  You’ll recall both men had secret wives and both thought that the means could justify the end, which is stupid and wrong.)

In short, however, I was disappointed in Song of the Lark.  While I enjoyed her descriptions of Moonstone and the surrounding Colorado territory, I just couldn’t muster up enough sympathy or compassion for Thea.

But for those of you unfamiliar with Cather, take heart!  Read her other works, especially Death Comes For the Archbishop.  Now that’s an exceptional book.

Father Miguel Pro by Gerald Muller

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Our family’s Saint of the Year is Miguel Pro.  Naturally I thought it a good idea to read up on him, and so I bought this Ignatius Press book at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has a side altar dedicated to him.

I really enjoyed reading this book and so did the rest of my family.  In fact, we had to make a rule: No One Takes That Book Out of the Living Room Until Mom is Done Reading It!

Well, I finished it, and I have a much deeper appreciation for this priest who survived a few years of the terrible Mexican Revolution in the 1920s wherein churches were desecrated, nuns were raped, and priests were murdered.  Fr. Miguel Pro was eventually hunted down too and shot.

I highly recommend this short book for your whole family.

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It has great pictures too.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

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My daughter is taking a British Literature class this summer wherein all the novels are murder mysteries.  Yikes.  She’ll be reading the likes of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and G. K. Chesterton.

Now I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel.  Up until this week, the only thing I knew about Christie was the fact that she signed the infamous 1971 “Agatha Christie Indult,” wherein Pope Paul VI granted England and Wales permission to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.

Apparently Christie, who was not even a Catholic, objected to the promulgation of the Novus Ordo due to cultural and aesthetic reasons.  She signed with the likes of Graham Greene.  Supposedly Paul VI saw her name and exclaimed, “Ah, Agatha Christie!”

So as I was saying, I was motivated to snatch up The Murder of Roger Ackroyd before The Eldest got to it.  Just what is all this fuss about Agatha Christie in the twentieth-century anyway? Apparently she’s the most widely published author of all time, excluding the Bible and Shakespeare.

And how was it?  Reading a murder-mystery novel?

I can’t say it’s my cup of tea, as the British saying goes.  Even though The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was entertaining, I felt like I was supposed to use my brain and try to solve the thing while reading it.  Now I’m feeling old, and there were just too many parlourmaids and butlers to keep track of and too many open windows and missing objects and murder motives and such too.  Goodness.

I can handle playing the board-game Clue, but that’s the extent of my ability to solve a murder.  So, I’ll have to leave it to sharper blades in the drawer to tackle these books.

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