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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Who Was The Real Father Brown?

(This is an article rather than a blog post, for a change!)

Who Was The Real Father Brown?

Millions of viewers across the world like to watch the new BBC series, “Father Brown,” based on G.K. Chesterton’s novels.  The wise, unassuming clerical detective remains popular. People in Birmingham in the UK even complained that the series was not shown at prime time! Several viewers also purchased the fictional stories because of the series.

Although there have been several priest and nun detectives since Father Brown, Chesterton is credited as being the first to invent this type of character.  It is amazing that he was not even a Roman Catholic when he began the famous tales. How did he think of such an unusual idea?

Father John O’Connor, an Irish priest and a good friend of the philosophical and intellectual Chesterton inspired the character of Father Brown. Father O’Connor’s intelligence and knowledge of the dark side of life learned in the Confessional showed him that ‘innocent’ priests were aware of the many different aspects of human nature.  He wrote that ‘… a man who does next to nothing but hear men’s real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil’. Indeed, the great writer was often frightened by the priest’s vivid tales of hell. This contrast spurred the idea of the seemingly unworldly Father Brown with his awareness of wickedness. When Chesterton overheard two Cambridge undergraduates complaining about the naïve nature of the clergy, he almost burst into ‘loud, harsh laughter’ in the drawing room because he understood that the two students knew about as much of real evil as babies.

Born in Clommel in Ireland, Father O’Connor came from the upper-middle class and received an excellent education in Europe.  He was ordained in Rome when he was only 24.  Although he led the relatively simple life of a parish priest in Bradford in Yorkshire, he must have had great charisma.   Frances Steinthal, a Jewish friend of Chesterton, even described him as ‘dazzling’. Father O’Connor knew many artists and writers, including Hilaire Belloc, David Jones and Eric Gill, and Chesterton converted to Catholicism because of the priest’s influence.

Father Brown differed from Father O’Connor in some crucial ways because Chesterton wanted to make him into an Englishman.  The writer made him untidy, clumsy and unassuming with a pudding-face, although the real man was neat, tidy and fastidious. He also gave him remarkable powers of observation and great logical deduction skills.

The fictional priest’s influence has also been great.  For example, he played a large part in actor Alec Guinness’s conversion.  The movie about Father Brown was being shot in a French village. As the actor walked home from the studio where he was acting the leading role, a French child calling him ‘Abbé’ trustingly took his hand because he was dressed as a priest. Guiness thought that: ‘a Church that could inspire such confidence in a child, making priests, even when unknown, so easily approachable, could not be as scheming or as creepy as so often made out’.  Guinness continued to think about this experience, and began going to Mass.

Father O’Connor would, no doubt, be pleased that the priest he inspired became such a well-loved and magnetic character.


Friday, October 30, 2015

An Improbable Friendship by Anthony David

Ruth Dayan working for Maskit, an organisation that she founded to help poor Jewish and Arab women earn money by making beautiful garments.

Did you know that the former wife of the Israeli general Moshe Dayan and the mother-in-law of Yasser Arrafat, Raymonda Tawill are friends? No?  I didn't either, so this book was a surprise.

Although harrowing, this tale of a strange friendship between these two strong peace activists on opposite sides is hard to put down. Vivid and evocative, it tells the story of how Ruth, a girl brought up in a genteel manner, ended up married to a fierce general whose leadership won the Six-Day War, and Raymonda had to face terrible hardships caused by the loss of her homeland and the conflict, but managed to become friends with Israelis anyway. Even though the two women sometimes argue, their work for women and peace brought them together.

I especially liked the story of Yael, Dayan's rather Bohemian writer daughter, and how her books influenced Raymonda.

It's a great book, although I felt that David seemed to be more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, even though he tried hard to present a balanced view.  However, the important point is that people can manage to be friends with their 'enemies,' in spite of many tribulations.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. A Medieval Fairy Tale by Melanie Dickerson

I was charmed by this fairy tale like novel set in medieval Germany with it's story of good versus evil and it's strong Christian basis. The atmosphere is exactly right and the love story is believable and sweet. Sometimes the language was too modern, however. I think that the term 'reaching out' was used at one stage!

The story concerns Odette who secretly poaches at night so that she can provide the poor children in the village with meat. When she falls in love with the gamekeeper for the Margrave, young Jorgen, she is in big trouble! Another problem is that her only relative, her uncle, wants her to marry a wealthy man. She owes much to her uncle who has acted as her guardian since the death of her parents, and Marriage to this man is also tempting, 
because he is willing to help her look after the children. 

Although the tale involves good and evil, the characters are well-rounded and their motives are understandable. Even the main characters, although very appealing, are not 'too good to be true'. They come close, however! 

I have always loved fairy tales so I will look up more of Melanie Dickerson's Novels. This one was comforting after my mother died recently. I recommend it if you like appealing Historical Christian novels.

My First Time In Hollywood Stories from the Pioneers, Dreamers and Misfits Who Made the Movies Edited and Annotated by Cari Beauchamp

(The intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland in 1907)

Cecil DeMille shared his small wooden house with a wolf and young would-be stars lived in fear of dangerous rattlesnakes roaming over the primitive sets.  This book about the early days of Hollywood by the historian Cari Beauchamp makes it sound like the wild, wild West.  Full of exciting anecdotes, scandals and fascinating stories of  the stars, this is a must-read for avid movie fans.

I loved it! I also liked looking at the images. The only problem is that many of the books from which the extracts are taken are out-of-print, and several of them are extremely expensive.  It's a big problem because you will certainly want to read more about the history of Hollywood after reading this book.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Echoing Grove by Rosamond Lehmann

I found the characters in this book too difficult to like, and the novel was just too bitter for me at the moment. I didn't finish it, but I will certainly try more books by this author because she wrote so well.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Winston Churchill Reporting Adventures of a Young War Correspondent Simon Read

Simon Read thinks that Churchill's most formative years were those that he spent as a young war correspondent. His experience of the horrors of war prepared him for his career as a politician, especially when he was Prime Minister during the Second World War, and his mastery of the English language made his speeches inspirational  Read's stirring account shows how these years forged Churchill's character.  I am sure that the great man himself would be proud of this book!

Churchill was certainly a sucker for punishment.  He trudged through tropical jungle in Cuba, fought in terrific heat in the Sudan against a fanatical enemy and made a dramatic escape from his POW camp in the Boer War.  As well as this, he wrote acclaimed articles and books.  By the age of twenty-five, he had been in four military campaigns and published three best-selling works of non-fiction and a novel! He'd made his name so that he could begin his political career.

Churchill once wrote that: 'Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because, as has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others'.  The young Churchill showed great courage when he was a soldier, and his years as a war correspondent and soldier assisted him to inspire the British to have courage during the dark years of  The Second World War.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Storm Leopards by Holly Webb

Snow Leopard Conservancy/Jammu & Kashmir Wildlife Protection Department, Snow Leopard at Hemis National Park, India, Wikipedia.

Isabelle feels lonely at her new home and school, but the sight of a beautiful leopard with 'glowing green-gold eyes' at the zoo gives her a new interest.  She buys a little figure of a snow leopard at the shop and discovers that they are endangered creatures. The figure was made by a charity in Mongolia that raises money to protect the snow leopards from hunters.

Soon afterwards, Isabelle suddenly finds herself in a strange place. She is in a beautiful snowy mountainous area of Mongolia where she has to get used to living in a tent and eating different foods Here she makes friends with Odval and a snow leopard with cute cubs.  The problem is that these leopards are being hunted by Odval's brothers because they think that the animals have been eating the family's sheep.  Isabelle and Odval share many adventures as they try to protect the leopards.

I would have loved this book by Holly Webb  as a child, and it will make more children anxious to help these lovely creatures.  However, I did wonder whether it would be a bit too 'girly' for boys.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Suddenly Mrs Darcy

Suddenly Mrs Darcy by Jenetta James

An enjoyable and interesting twist on Pride and Prejudice, Suddenly Mrs Darcy will keep you reading late into the night. Written in a charming nineteenth-century style, this new story is told from Elizabeth's point of view. Although it may seem a little unbelievable at first, Elizabeth's lively character and the excellent writing soon makes it convincing.

In this novel, Elizabeth is caught in what looks like a compromising position with Mr Darcy. She quickly finds herself married and thrown into the deep end as the new mistress of Pemberley. However, Dark secrets seem to abound. Who is the strange woman Darcy visits, for example? Why doesn't he like Wickham? His condescending attitude to her family also annoys Elizabeth.

The love stor between the characters is well-developed and involving. James doesn't change the essential characters of Lizzy and Darcy, which I liked.

Most Jane Austen fans will appreciate this take on Pride and Prejudice.

A Special Relationship by Anthony Slide



This book by Anthony Slide about Americans  involved in the film industry who went to England is rather academic and dull. It is mainly useful for film-buffs and those who want to look up information.

I did enjoy a few anecdotes. For example, Anna Lee, who hated the IRA and didn't like the Irish much, used to look after Daniel Day-Lewis when he was young. 'If he'd known what he become, I would have drowned him,' she said!

This book is full of beautiful photos, however. It is worth buying for those alone.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Memories of the Mansion The Story of Georgia's Governor's Mansion by Sandra D. Deal, Jennifer W. Dickey, and Catherine M. Lewis University of Georgia Press

I enjoyed reading about the history of this stunning mansion with its exquisite furniture and gardens, and looking at the beautiful pictures in the book. It's amazing to think that the original governor of the colony lived in a tent! I hope to visit one day!

I received this ebook from University of Georgia Press via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Mayhem in Margeaux by Jean-Pierre Aleux and Noel Balen



Andrew McMillan, Vineyard Fields France, PublicDomain.com

In this charming wine mystery Benjamin investigates the death of a young chateaux manager and corruption in the wine industry. The setting moves from Bordeaux to the stunning French Riviera as Benjamin and his offside delve into the situation with the help of a rather terse police inspector. This is great fun with it's likeable, elegant characters and its descriptions of their luxurious way of life and the beautiful French countryside. The technical aspects of the types of wine and winemaking are also interesting.

If you like light, cozy mysteries, I highly recommend this one. I look forward to catching up on the rest of the series from the beginning.

I received this free ebook from Le French Book via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 05, 2015

The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

This is a poignant novel based on the lives of women reporters in the Second World War.  It concerns the lives of beautiful, upper-class Liv, a photojournalist, journalist Jane, and a male photographer Fletcher, as they race to report on the Allied liberation of Paris.  Fletcher helps Liv and Jane who have gone AWOL because this is the only way that they will be able to do their work.

It's slow-moving, but richly-textured with well-rounded and likeable characters and a moving love story.  However,  its the vivid descriptions of the war that really lift this book above the ordinary, such as the Scribe Hotel, the press headquarters, which was taken over by journalists - even the loos had been taken over for film developing.  Also, the account of the Dutch living in caves in a small town was quite chilling.

I am certainly interested in reading more novels by Meg Waite Clayton.

I received this free ebook from Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

Harem The World Behind the Veil by Alev Lytle Croutier

Croutier describes the sumptuous but languid life of captives in the harem in this book.  There are sections about the delicious food, the gorgeous clothes, and the grand interior decorations.  The rituals of weddings and other ceremonies are vividly detailed, as well.  Croutier brings the book to life with anecdotes from her own life and historical accounts and letters.

I liked the tales of the Western sultanas the best, including Roxelana and Aimee de Rivery.  These women captured the hearts of the sultans and managed to become extremely powerful.  Roxelana even managed to marry her sultan, which was highly unusual!

This book made me interested in Croutier's novels which also sound intriguing.

I received this free ebook from Abbeville Press via Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Rothschilds by Virginia Cowles

Unfortunately, I found this a bit dull and I didn't finish it.  I will try again later.

Prince Rupert by Charles Spencer

Cheryl Hingley, Rupert of the Rhine, Wikipedia

Charles Spencer has written an eloquent biography of this dashing and handsome prince that will go a long way towards restoring his reputation, maligned by his Puritan enemies.  This fast-paced account of Prince Rupert's life is an excellent analysis of his passionate and fiery character, and it also describes the era vividly and clearly.  I especially liked the many historical letters which were included in the book.

Rupert, an excellent and fearless soldier, led his men in several victories during the English Civil War, but his uncle, Charles 1 was easily persuaded by the Prince's enemies and his wife to disregard his opinions about the war, leading to bad strategic mistakes. The King was even led to believe that Rupert was guilty of treason at one stage! Nevertheless, they shared a special relationship, and I found Spencer's tale of the love between this uncle and nephew very moving.

Anyone who is interested in royal history or European history will enjoy this biography of the stylish and brave prince.