Tag Archives: Fiction


It seems that I’m putting off doing these write-ups until just before the next meeting.  I’m going to have to shape up!

A very lively and satisfying get-together centred around our April book, The Land of Spices by Kate O’Brien. Our discussion leader was Randy, and he presented a number of questions for us to consider, in the areas of heartbreak, convent life, moulding of character, and resemblance to the life of the author. The book is beautifully written, and Randy also asked us if we considered O’Brien to be a top-ranking author, which made for some interesting discussion.  The consensus seemed to be that she is, in our opinion, high-ranking, but not at the very top of her field.

We also talked about the spiritual, cultural, and literary aspects of the book, and really gave it a thorough going-over.  Members also chimed in with their personal connections, mostly from school and from our experience of working or volunteering side by side with sisters from various religious orders.

We will be moving on to our May meeting on the 8th, when the book under examination will be Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden. Dolores has volunteered to lead our discussion.





We met on November 14 to discuss Morte d’Urban by J. F. Powers, with Mary leading the discussion. Immdiately we saw a divide between those who had enjoyed the book and those who had not.  This opened up plenty of room for discussion. Some had particularly enjoyed some humorous bits and had even marked them so we could discuss them, while another member had an experience of having bitter memories revived regarding having been told of incidents of difficulties in living communal religious life.

The book had been reviewed and discussed back in 2014 in America, the national Jesuit magazine, and we examined some of the statements in that review. In particular, we focused on three discussion questions that had been included in the review. 1) What do you think of the claustrophobic priestly politics depicted by Powers? Is it stifling or comical or something else? 2) What constitutes success for a Christian? What constitutes success for a priest or a consecrated religious? 3) How has Fr. Urban been transformed at the end of the novel?

We enjoyed our discussion, and, just as it should be, we found that new insights were brought by hearing the discoveries and the opinions of others.  We were mostly in agreement in feeling that the book had provided us with a different vision of some problems of the serving priest, and the Church in the days just before the Second Vatican Council. All agreed that, for us, the ending was not successful and did not provide what we were looking for. We felt unsure what the author was telling us by the way he ended the book.

There were some decisions to be made about our future meetings, and we finally agreed that. because December is such a busy time for many, we would postpone meeting and reading our Dorothy Sayers radio play until January. After consultation with Father as to what Saturday night would fit with his schedule, the date has been set as January 7.

Our book for February will be The Lord by Romano Guardini, and it’s a good thing we have lots of time to read because it is a lengthy book, around 625 pages. It is available from Book Depository, and there is an e-book version as well. I would suggest getting a copy as soon as possible so that there is plenty of time to digest it. Sometimes over the holidays we have a little more free time for reading, and this will fill the gap very nicely.

Why Read Fiction?

Here is an excerpt from a post on Why Read Modern Fiction from The Philosopher Mom which I thought of interest:

Why should we read things like Brideshead Revisited, Silence, A Man in Full, A Good Man is Hard to Find, Love in the Ruins, The Lord of the Rings, Kristin Lavransdatter, or even… Love in the Time of Cholera? If time is short, shouldn’t we be almost exclusively reading the Catechism, the Bible, or various devotional works?


I’d like to think about this question sincerely, because there was a time in my life when all I wanted to read were works by saints or works on points of doctrine or ideas. There’s nothing wrong with these seasons of life, so long as we do not absolutize them for ourselves or others.

The place of fiction and, in particular, modern fiction in the life of lovers of wisdom–philosophers!–has to do with knowledge of self, knowledge of the world, and knowledge of God.

The most important thing to remember is that all truth is one, and ultimately is found only in union with God. This does not mean, however, that only art or literature explicitly devoted to God speaks truth. As Augustine wrote, the human heart by nature groans and aches for God alone–all human works, however broken or disgusting, can give expression to this desire and thus to the fulfillment of this desire.

We should be reading the great works of modern fiction (amen, time is short, so skip the trash unless you’re on a brain-vacation!) and helping our of-age children to do the same. We should read fiction because it speaks the language a whole dimension of ourselves that perhaps the Summa Theologica does not: the imagination, the will, the heart. It engages our intellect, too, in a new way: Rather than an analysis of a problem, it invites the reader to inhabit the questions at hand. If holiness or viciousness are only fully grasped in an encounter with a living person who is either holy or vicious, then fiction can draw us ore closely to a lived experience of these realities.

We should be reading modern fiction because we are moderns. Even more than that, we are post-moderns. It does not do for us to stop with the Greeks, the Medieval poets, Dante, or even Shakespeare. The reality is that, for us and our children, the world is a different place now than it was in 1900. I am glad I had to read 1984, Farenheit 451, In Cold Blood, Ordinary People, and even… ugh… Catcher in the Rye. I am even more glad that my 20th-century reading list did not end with high school but went on to include the works listed at the top of this page–and many more.

In reading the works of modern authors, we listen to the voice of our immediate companions on earth. We hear the influence of Nietzsche, WWI and WWII, the Cold War, the sexual revolution, the loss of confidence in natural science, the loss of so much. We also see the ongoing thirst for truth, beauty, and goodness–and the unlikely moments in which these are found in our own context. We learn to speak the language that those around us speak. This is the only way we ourselves can grasp the truth of our condition: in order, creatures, humans, moderns.

Now, truth is sometimes depressing. Especially Ray Bradbury’s fiction. Ugh. Tom Wolfe is no walk in the sunshine, either. But they articulate and paint for our souls images, allegories, and stories from which Christ himself does not shrink. Neither should we. All truth is one; all truth is of God.

Follow the above link to her blog if you would like to see more of what she has to say.  I’ll be interested to hear your reactions at our upcoming meeting.

A Novel About Saint Luke

On this feastday of St. Luke the Evangelist, I received a link to this Foreword to Taylor Caldwell’s novel, Dear and Glorious Physician: A Novel About St. LukeSince this book is on our Suggested Books list and is one that Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed, I thought I would pass it on to you, with a small commentary on our reaction to reading it.

Taylor Caldwell’s Foreword Here

When we read this book, we felt immersed in the sights, smells, and sounds of the time.  The author does a wonderful job of recreating the societies and families in which her scenes are set, and you really do feel as though you are viewing that history.  The book has been around for a long time and I had heard of the title but never read it, until it was mentioned to me by a friend who had recently converted to Catholicism.  She is an athletic type, not usually a reader, but when she described to me how she had been swept away by this novel and how very much she had enjoyed it, I decided I had better have a look at it.  And that was all it took–I too was immediately immersed in the story.

May our celebration of the feast of St. Luke bring blessings to us all!