Changing Churches by Charles Mynors (Bloomsbury, £40). Altering a church building can be a complicated business: lots of rules, forms and bureaucracy. Charles Mynors provides a user’s guide to the process which will be invaluable for those wanting to chop down a tree in the churchyard, place a new radiator in the sacristy, or overhaul the entire edifice. The goal is “demystification”, but for all the technical information this book might, in its way, serve as a useful document of social history for future scholars. What a fuss it all was, they’ll say.
Villa Triste by Patrick Modiano (Other Press, £10). When the novelist Modiano won the 2014 Nobel Prize for literature, the literary world’s reaction was a resounding “Patrick who?” It’s a fitting response to a writer who has always been obsessed by the nature of identity and its relation to memory. Set in a small Alpine town in the 1960s, a young man arrives, fleeing conscription in the Algerian War, beset by fears and an identity crisis. There he meets a demi-monde of morally dubious characters. Like all of Modiano’s novels, this is a brilliant evocation of guilt and memory.
The Camisard Uprising by David Crackanthorpe (Signal Books, £14.99). The 1598 Edict of Nantes provided French Protestants with a measure of toleration. Its revocation in 1685 provoked a period of sometimes gruesome persecution. Down in the Languedoc, close by the Cévennes mountains, the locals moved from resentment to rebellion. The so-called Camisards – shepherds, farmers and rural workers – caused havoc between 1702 and 1704, and the French king responded predictably. The story still awaits a modern, nuanced and detailed telling in English. This isn’t it, but Crackanthorpe’s passion for the region shines through.
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, £20). For all readers fascinated by the writings of Tolkien, CS Lewis, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams, this book provides an excellent introduction. Unlike the Bloomsbury literary coterie, the Inklings, as they were known, were drawn to the numinous and to its literary expression in fantasy, storytelling and myth. Deeply affected by both world wars, the group, which met regularly in Oxford, rejected intellectual despair and found their inspiration in Christianity. Their purpose: to revitalise literature as a conduit for religious faith.
Experience Grace in Abundance by Johnnette Benkovic (Sophia Institute Press, £13.82). The author has written an insightful guide to helping people grow in holiness. Dividing her book into two chapters, “Our relationship with God” and “Our relationship with others”, Benkovic provides solid Catholic teaching and illuminating suggestions from Scripture, the writings of the saints and stories from everyday life. The author demonstrates how we can all advance in our spiritual lives, especially when we feel that we are making no progress. Highly recommended.
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