Books

Briefly noted

Family and Life by Pope Francis (Alban Books, £9.99). These “pastoral reflections”, selected by the Pontifical Council for the Family, are taken from the years 1998-2013, when the Pope was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. They show how closely the Pope today echoes his past preaching. On topics such as abortion, raising children, divorce and same-sex marriage, his pastoral and compassionate voice is clearly heard – not in contradiction to the Church’s doctrinal beliefs but in a plea to show the merciful face of God. Commentators on papal pronouncements would do well to read them.

Gospel Reflections for Sundays of Year C: Luke by Donal Neary SJ (Messenger Publications, £7.99). Fr Neary, currently editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger, has not written a scriptural commentary on the Gospel but a series of reflections to help lay people better grasp the inner meaning of the passages they hear read out at Mass. These reflections are practical, homely, personal – ideal reading for those who want to come closer to the message of the Gospels in order to relate it to their own lived experiences. Each passage is followed by a brief prayer in italics: succinct and direct.

Journeying with Jonah by Fr Denis McBride (Redemptorist Publications, £10). Subtitled “The struggle to find yourself ”, this meditation on Jonah suggests he was not unlike us: confused about his purpose in life, fearful of God’s commands and anxious to evade his prophetic destiny. As Fr McBride puts it: “Jonah is scandalised by God’s mercy. [He] has to learn, as we all do, that … we cannot plead for mercy for ourselves and then deny it to others.” Graphic black-and-white illustrations of the drama of Jonah’s life are juxtaposed with Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel of the major and minor prophets.

Social Class in the 21st Century by Mike Savage (Penguin, £8.99). The author, professor of sociology at the LSE, has written an instructive survey on the complexities of the English class system, with the help of experts in this field. They cover the ever-fluid yet ever-tenacious gradations of social standing in our country that the British love to mock, such as social mobility, education, meritocracy, the “precariat” and the new “ordinary” elite. There is sufficient material in these pages, which analyse the “contorted British obsession with class”, to stimulate a succession of television sitcoms and novels.

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev (Faber, £8.99). With the ongoing war in the Ukraine and Putin’s annexation of Crimea, Russia seems to have bared its fangs only a decade into the new century. Just a hundred years before, the last days of Tsar Nicholas II were ebbing away. Pomerantsev, a Londoner of Russian origin, arrived in Russia in 2006. The country had been transformed into an oligarch’s paradise where corruption, sex, money and nationalism all stirred in an uneasy stew. This is a brilliant look at the way Russia is today and a stark warning about its future.