Book Review

Books in Brief: Hardy, Sayers, & Ten Boom

I’ve written about about these authors before, and yes, they are delightful and entertaining. Today I’ll offer a few thoughts about a different book from each.

Thomas Hardy: The Mayor of Casterbridge

Just finished Hardy, moving onto Lefebvre

Because I loved Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, I decided to give another one of his novels–The Mayor of Casterbridge–a shot. (Thank you, Michelle, for the recommendation. It was well worth the read.)

I was hooked from page 12 wherein Michael Henchard, a dissatisfied and poor hay trusser in early nineteenth-century England, sold his wife at a refreshment tent at a country fair. Indeed, Henchard was hasty and drunk. Consequently, his wife was only glad to depart with an obliging sailor, who purchased her for five guineas.

Now that’s a beginning to grab one’s attention, for I was mighty curious to see just how this book would turn out. It was quite a rollicking ride for a Victorian novel. Oh, but nothing too scandalous, mind you. (Did I mention it was the early 1800s?)

This book reminded me a bit of George Eliot’s Silas Marner–what with people disappearing (think of Dunstan’s drowning and the sailor too) and little girls being raised by other more capable men (think of Silas Marner raising Eppie, and then the sailor in this book raising Elizabeth.)

But really, I was disappointed in the end because I wanted more. I would have liked an account of Mr. Farfrae’s fickleness. Really, the man was attracted to Elizabeth, but then was easily infatuated with Lucetta, only to return once again to Elizabeth. Just how did this change come about, I wonder?

The good thing about this book, and most Victorian novels that I’ve read, is that the good or virtuous characters, while experiencing hardships, are generally rewarded in the end. Conversely, the bad characters are given their due as well. In this case, Elizabeth experiences much persecution from Henchard, but with her quiet humility, she rises gloriously. Henchard, however, dies a lonely man.

Dorothy Sayers: Clouds of Witness

From Victorian novels to detective fiction, here we go. I do love variety.

Now, if you have not read a Dorothy Sayers crime novel, you are missing out. Do start with Gaudy Night, then follow up with Busman’s Honeymoon, for Lord Peter Wimsey is quite a dashing sleuth in those novels.

I’ve heard from somewhere, probably the Literary Life Podcast, that C.S. Lewis admired Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey because he was the only sleuth to have ever evolved throughout his fictional career. I mean, to have grown and developed into a more admirable man.

And it’s true. In Clouds of Witness, which was written prior to the Harriet Vane novels above, we see a more carefree and flippant Wimsey, than in Sayers’s later novels.

Because of that, however, and because there are allusions to complicated marital affairs, I wouldn’t recommend this book for immature audiences. For anybody else, however, this book is hysterical. Sayers is bitingly critical of communism. She’s continually pointing out its contradictions and follies, especially through the Duchess of Denver–my favorite character. (She’s the mother of Wimsey.)

You know, this is what sets Sayers apart from, say, Agatha Christie. Sayers has a way of developing her characters and cunningly using them to speak about something else. In this book, it’s communism. She’s brilliant.

I’ve enjoyed the Agatha Christie novels that I’ve read too, but the Christie novels have a completely different feel. It seems to me that her novels are more concerned with solving the mystery and restoring order than commenting, say, on the medieval theology that built beautiful churches complete with bells and bell choirs. (I’m thinking of Sayers’s The Nine Tailors.)

Corrie Ten Boom: In My Father’s House

Yes, another Corrie Ten Boom book. Really, if you haven’t read The Hiding Place, then I’m not sure what you’re doing wasting your time on my blog. Go get that book.

Since The Hiding Place was an incredible read, I thought I’d pick up her prequel, In My Father’s House. This short book is filled with lovely photographs, about Corrie’s life prior to WWII. So, if you were astonished and inspired by The Hiding Place, then you will want to read this book.

Now, that said, it’s not as gripping as the first, naturally. But there was one thing that struck me. Her family was a family that prayed, and I mean prayed at all times. They never decided anything without praying, and praying right then and there too, in front of anybody and everybody.

Do we do that? I mean, pray at all times?

Corrie is the second from the left. They were poor, and yet, look with what dignity they dressed.

More Books: Ciszek and Lefebvre

I had wanted to say a few words about another nonfictional book I just read, but really, I’m running out of time. So, I’ll just mention it: With God in Russia by Walter Ciszek. Ah! What a tremendous read! Do you have sons? Get them this book immediately. Read it yourself. That priest survived 23 years in Soviet concentration camps, and I’ve never been more inspired by his perseverance and faith in God’s will.

Lastly…what am I reading now?

I’ve picked up Marcel Lefebvre’s biography. I’ve always wanted to read about that controversial SSPX archbishop. I’m about 80 pages into it and loving it. When I finish, I hope to give you my thoughts.

Anybody else reading something good?

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.

Most Popular Posts

Top 2 Books of 2019: Marshall & Schneider

Over the next few days, I’m going to offer some of my most popular posts from 2019.  Today I’m featuring Dr. Taylor Marshall’s Infiltration and Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s Christus Vincit.

Have you read them yet?  If not, I promise it’s worth it.

Without further ado…

Infiltration by Dr. Taylor Marshall

I’ve been wondering, just how in the world did we get such a character as Ex-Cardinal McCarrick serving in the Church anyway?

Furthermore, why do we have a pope that refuses to speak clearly and won’t defend traditional orthodoxy?

For that matter, why do most Catholics not even believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist?

About a year ago, my husband and I stumbled upon Dr. Taylor Marshall’s YouTube videos, wherein he and Timothy Gordon began exploring these questions.  It was refreshing.  They were asking all the same questions that my husband and I were asking.  The only difference was, they actually did some research.  In fact, Dr. Taylor Marshall did a lot of research and has recently released a book titled Infiltration.

Infiltration*

I just finished reading this book, and I think you should all buy a copy and get at it.  Click HERE for it on Amazon.

I will warn you, however.  Marshall doesn’t spare the likes of Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict the XVI.  This might upset those of you inclined to think that neither of these men made any mistakes.

Nevertheless…

Top Ten Reasons to Read Infiltration:

  1. This book is essentially a history book.  Now I went to public school, and I didn’t learn a thing in my history classes, so I really appreciated Dr. Marshall outlining the last 150 years of popes, freemasons, the Second Vatican Council, and the Church.
  2. Ever heard of Bella Dodd?  She was a former communist agent who worked tirelessly to to infiltrate the Catholic Church in the 1930s, and boy did she succeed.  She testified before the U.S. House Committee in 1953 that in the U.S. alone, they put   1100 of their men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within.  Four of those men eventually became cardinals.
  3. Incidentally, she later renounced her Communism and was received back into the Church by none other than Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  That whole chapter is unbelievable.
  4. Anyone ever wonder about those individuals responsible for creating the Novus Ordo?  Marshall does great work showing us what these guys were up to.  Annibale Bugnini…not a great man.
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien will always be dear to my heart.  Now I’ve heard of his response to the Novus Ordo before, but any book that highlights it, is a must-read.  For those of you unfamiliar with what Tolkien thought of the New Mass, be sure to read Chapter 23.
  6. Tolkien wasn’t the only famous person not enthusiastic about the changes after the Second Vatican Council.  Novelist Agatha Christie, who wasn’t even a Catholic, lamented the destruction of the liturgy for cultural and literary reasons.  And Pope Paul VI granted an indult to the Cardinal of Westminster because of her.
  7. Most people ignorantly brush off Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of Saint Pius X as a bunch of crazy whackos.  In reality, the real situation is much more complicated.  Marshall does a great job of detailing this movement.
  8. Have you ever wondered about Our Lady of La Salette?  Or the third secret of Fatima?  Mary seems to play an important role in these last 100 years of history.
  9. And how about Communion in the hand?  Where did that come from?  Did you know that the Protestant reformers–Luther, Calvin, Cranmer–all insisted that people receive in the hand because it signified that the Eucharist was just ordinary bread?  Which is why, as Catholics, we say Lex orandi, lex credendi.  Our actions and postures matter.
  10. Finally, you need to buy your husband a Father’s Day gift anyway.  So click HERE for it on Amazon.
*Notice who wrote the forward??  Yep, none other than Bishop Athanasius Schneider.  Now there’s a man!

Best Book of 2019:

Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s Christus Vinvit

Angelico Press recently released Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s book Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age this last September.  Click HERE for it on Amazon.

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I am so thankful to God and to Bishop Schneider for this clear and moving account of the affairs in the Church.  Seriously, this is the best book I’ve read in a long while.

I came across this book in an interesting manner.  Of course I had heard about it’s coming release this last summer, but what with Paul’s medical problems, I couldn’t pay much attention.  Then a friend, who knew how our family suffered by lack of a regular Traditional Latin Mass in our diocese, read this book and found much hope in it.  She mailed me a copy by way of a gift.

The book, however, sat on my shelf for about a month, for the simple reason that I was trying to force feed myself Cardinal Sarah’s book.  (Not worth it, by the way.)

Then one night I couldn’t sleep.  As this happens to me a lot, I’ve tried to just accept it and be grateful for it.

I have a plan, though, for when it does strike:

  1. If I’ve been lying there for about 15 minutes or so, I force myself to get up.  (I hate getting out of bed.)
  2. Then I walk to the living room and kneel before our icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in complete darkness and cold.
  3. I tell Jesus what’s on my mind, and He looks at me.
  4. Then I pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for all my intentions.

Normally I can then walk back to bed and fall fast asleep.  But not this night.  No, I was wide awake.  So I sat on the couch in complete darkness and watched the stars out of the window.  It was quiet and beautiful.

Then I remembered Schneider’s book, sitting on my bookshelf.  I picked it up, out of curiosity, and couldn’t believe the story I was soon reading.  The story of a family surviving cruel and inhumane gulag camps in the Ural Mountains.  The story of persecution and faith in communist Russia.  The story of a young man experiencing the liberal craziness of 1970s Germany.  The story of a bishop shepherding his flock in the midst of raving wolves.

I’m telling you, it’s gripping.  It’s clear.  It’s prophetic.

It’s the best book I’ve read all year.

Book Review, Most Popular Posts

How Did Ex-Cardinal McCarrick Happen Anyway? Infiltration Book Review

I’ve been wondering, just how in the world did we get such a character as Ex-Cardinal McCarrick serving in the Church anyway?

Furthermore, why do we have a pope that refuses to speak clearly and won’t defend traditional orthodoxy?

For that matter, why do most Catholics not even believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist?

About a year ago, my husband and I stumbled upon Dr. Taylor Marshall’s YouTube videos, wherein he and Timothy Gordon began exploring these questions.  It was refreshing.  They were asking all the same questions that my husband and I were asking.  The only difference was, they actually did some research.  In fact, Dr. Taylor Marshall did a lot of research and has recently released a book titled Infiltration.

Infiltration*

I just finished reading this book, and I think you should all buy a copy and get at it.  Click HERE for it on Amazon.

I will warn you, however.  Marshall doesn’t spare the likes of Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict the XVI.  This might upset those of you inclined to think that neither of these men made any mistakes.

Nevertheless…

Top Ten Reasons to Read Infiltration:

  1. This book is essentially a history book.  Now I went to public school, and I didn’t learn a thing in my history classes, so I really appreciated Dr. Marshall outlining the last 150 years of popes, freemasons, the Second Vatican Council, and the Church.
  2. Ever heard of Bella Dodd?  She was a former communist agent who worked tirelessly to to infiltrate the Catholic Church in the 1930s, and boy did she succeed.  She testified before the U.S. House Committee in 1953 that in the U.S. alone, they put   1100 of their men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within.  Four of those men eventually became cardinals.
  3. Incidentally, she later renounced her Communism and was received back into the Church by none other than Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  That whole chapter is unbelievable.
  4. Anyone ever wonder about those individuals responsible for creating the Novus Ordo?  Marshall does great work showing us what these guys were up to.  Annibale Bugnini…not a great man.
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien will always be dear to my heart.  Now I’ve heard of his response to the Novus Ordo before, but any book that highlights it, is a must-read.  For those of you unfamiliar with what Tolkien thought of the New Mass, be sure to read Chapter 23.
  6. Tolkien wasn’t the only famous person not enthusiastic about the changes after the Second Vatican Council.  Novelist Agatha Christie, who wasn’t even a Catholic, lamented the destruction of the liturgy for cultural and literary reasons.  And Pope Paul VI granted an indult to the Cardinal of Westminster because of her.
  7. Most people ignorantly brush off Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of Saint Pius X as a bunch of crazy whackos.  In reality, the real situation is much more complicated.  Marshall does a great job of detailing this movement.
  8. Have you ever wondered about Our Lady of La Salette?  Or the third secret of Fatima?  Mary seems to play an important role in these last 100 years of history.
  9. And how about Communion in the hand?  Where did that come from?  Did you know that the Protestant reformers–Luther, Calvin, Cranmer–all insisted that people receive in the hand because it signified that the Eucharist was just ordinary bread?  Which is why, as Catholics, we say Lex orandi, lex credendi.  Our actions and postures matter.
  10. Finally, you need to buy your husband a Father’s Day gift anyway.  So click HERE for it on Amazon.
*Notice who wrote the forward??  Yep, none other than Bishop Athanasius Schneider.  Now there’s a man!