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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson

Monsignor R. H. Benson, Oct., 1912, age 40. Photograph by G. Jerrard

‘'Ministers of euthanasia’ on the scene quickly after a volor (high-speed plane) crash and there are Euthanasia centers for the disabled and anguished. Catholicism is regarded as the enemy and many of the faithful have gone to Rome, the last holdout. The others keep a low profile. England eagerly awaits the coming of Julian Felsenburgh, the new President of Europe who hAs united East and West. There are no wars in this Communist secular ‘utopia’.welcome to the dystopia world imagined by Robert Hugh Benson.

Oliver Brand is an official in the secular, ‘humanitarian’ government and determined to get rid of ‘ superstition and ignorance’,’ and his beautiful wife Mabel is heavily influenced by his views. Although Oliver is supposed to be enlightened, he really has a condescending attitude to Mabel who, he thinks, is inclined to be emotional because she is a woman. Imagine their horror when they find out that Mabel’s mother wants to see a priest and return to her religion! This priest, Fr Percy Franklin, is a calm and strong leader, who doesn’t fear Felsenburgh. 

In this new world, the government decides that people actually need ceremonies to replace the old ones and makes attendance compulsory. Now the Abbey is used for the veneration of Maternity,  Life, Sustenance and Paternity. These ceremonies remind one of some of the New Agey celebrations and, indeed, the new types of church services which are popular today.


Eventually, the battle between these two opposing views, will lead to a huge disaster…

This creepy, remarkably prescient novel by a Catholic convert with its similarities to today’s West with its desire to relegate Christianity
to the sidelines and its tendency to regard man as the enemy, but also worship mankind, had a big influence on the new Pope who has criticized ‘ideological colonisation’. This has created a big interest in the novel.

It is certainly a memorable book but rather wordy. I especially liked Benson’s explanation of Catholic belief.

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

Ave Maria Press
$14.95

Friday, December 23, 2016

Erte's Theatrical Costumes in Full Color by Erte

This book is an absolute delight for any fan of costume design history, and it is sure to inspire budding theatrical designers. Brilliant and colourful, these costumes include designs for the ballet, the opera and famous actresses, such as Gaby Deslys. My favourites include the monster with three heads for the ballet Sheherazade, the pink and purple flowing octopus  and the fantastic clock with the 18th century lady and the cloaked man.

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

Lucie Aubrac. The French Resistance Heroine Who Defied The Gestapo by Sian Rees

LHochiminh and Bebet
By Paul Durand, photojournalist of Humanity daily (Humanity daily 16/9/1946) [Public domain or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Lucie Aubrac, a heroine of the French Resistance, was certainly an amazing woman and this well-researched and interesting biography by Sian Rees   does her great credit and restores her reputation.  When Klaus Barbie claimed that Lucie and her husband Raymond became informers and betrayed their comrades, the news caused a sensation in France and they had a big struggle to prove that this was not true.  Even some of their former friends accused them, and they suffered for years from this betrayal.

Lucie began her life in Montparnesse in Paris which has become known as a 'poverty-stricken haunt of artists and intellectuals.' It was really an area of slums where Jean Cocteau said that poverty was a luxury. Lucie's mother had to support a sick husband and do laundry work even when she was pregnant. Life became a bit better after the couple moved to the country where Lucie's father grew flowers and vegetables and her mother sold them at the market.  She was surrounded by an extended family - her grandparents helped.  The young girl was always clever and rebellious. For example, she refused to kiss a statue of the Virgin Mary when asked to by her grandmother.

When she was nineteen, Lucie won a place at teaching college after her third try and her parents were delighted. Imagine their astonishment, when she refused to take her place.  She wanted to attend the Sorbonne and get a degree that would give her a much better status and salary.  Lucie had a great struggle to finally get her degree - living in poverty and even teaching herself Latin from scratch. She found friends among Communists and Quakers and work in primary schools but it took her a long time to pass Latin.

Raymond and Lucie shared a great love story even though they came from vastly different backgrounds. Raymond was a member of an atheist Jewish merchant family with money whereas she came from a family of Catholic peasants. However, Raymond's family were pleased with Lucie, who was a cultured university graduate and they were kind and hospitable. Lucie and Raymond could have looked forward to an easy and comfortable life but clouds were on the horizon...

Lucie and Raymond both played huge parts in the French Resistance. They founded one of the most important resistance movements, ran an underground newspaper and served as 'couriers, arms carriers and saboteurs'. Lucie  helped Raymond escape from the very Gestapo and even managed to fool the 'Butcher of Lyon,' Klaus Barbie with stunning sang froid.

Sian Rees describes the horrors of war, the cruelty of the Gestapo, the amazing feats of Raymond and Lucie and their shining characters in a fascinating way.  I also liked reading about Jean Moulin, another hero of the Resistance. This biography is certainly well-worth reading, especially for those who love to read any good book about the French Resistance.

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

Chicago Review Press
256 pages
$26.99


Monday, December 19, 2016

Confessions of a Convert by The Classic Spiritual Autobiography from the Author of Lord of the World Robert Hugh Benson

Robert Hugh Benson was the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury so imagine the scandal when he converted to Catholicism! It was long after his father died, otherwise the shock would probably have been even greater.

This is a lyrical but old-fashioned book in which Benson tells the story of his long search for meaning. Although he became an Anglican priest, the Anglican church never really engaged him. It had 'no spark in it of real vitality,' at least when he was young. He was brought up to think of Catholicism as 'corrupt and decayed' and the extreme Protestants as 'noisy, extravagant and vulgar'. Benson saw the life of a quiet country clergyman with a beautiful garden ahead of him.

However, when he went to Europe, he felt a sense of isolation as an Anglican and he was struck by the strength and continuity of the Catholic church.  These reasons for conversion don't apply so much today - there is much more division within Catholicism now, for example.  However, anyone interested in Catholicism will find this tale of a Victorian clergyman who decided to follow the beat of a different drummer worth reading.

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

The World Reimagined Americans and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century by Mark Philip Bradley

This looked interesting, but it was just too academic for me at the moment.

A Right Royal Scandal Two Marriages That Changed History by Joanna Major and Sarah Murden

Richard Colley Wellesley, Anne's father. (Wikipedia)

What kind of scandals lurk in our Queen's past? What do the love stories of the Cavendish-Bentinck family have to do with her? The answers can be found in this delicious account of two marriages that shocked society in the Georgian and Victorian eras.  These were the marriage of Lady Anne Abdy, the Duke of Wellington's niece, to Lord Charles Bentinck, the son of the Duke of Portland, and his son's marriage to a beautiful gypsy girl.

When the imperious Lady Abdy ran away from her dull husband with the rather impecunious but handsome and charming Lord Charles Bentinck, her relatives were horrified. Her husband actually sued Lord Charles for Criminal Conversation, and she had to endure financial hardship and all sorts of problems.  It is sometimes a bit difficult for the reader to be sympathetic with Lady Anne, however, because of her fiery temper and the extremely high-handed way in which she treated her servants.

Like Father, Like Son

Handsome young Charley Cavendish Bentinck had a bright future ahead of him when he went up to Oxford in 1837 to study theology. This was threatened when he met a captivating and beautiful gypsy girl who came from a rough and ready working-class world.  The gypsies were regarded as exotic at best and thieves and criminals at worst. When Charley's relations found out about his secret wedding, there was all hell to pay... Could such a match last?

I loved reading this book and it certainly made me want to read more about this distinguished family. I will read Fortune's Sisters again about the sisters who fell in love with the Wellesley brothers.

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


Friday, December 16, 2016

The Joy Model by Jeff Spadafora

I am quite religious, but I am afraid that this book by Jeff Spadafora did not work for me.  I may try it again later, but I didn't want to be bothered with the diagrams and it all seemed to be so much work that I decided that I would rather be miserable, or whatever I am! I am sure that Spadafora's suggestions will help people improve their connection with God and their lives and relationships and they are probably worth the reward. However, I don't want to take the time to do it right now.

Spadafora wants readers to carefully read the Bible and apply it to their daily lives, fasting and becoming more self-aware by finding out their strengths and weaknesses and getting rid of their 'false selves'. I will try to stop acting in any way that is based on negative emotions, such as anger and greed. This will be one of my New Year's resolutions!

Unfortunately, I couldn't finish this book. However, Spadafora's blog looks good, so I will read that instead.

I received this free ebook from Book Look Bloggers in return for an honest review.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Together at the Table by Hilllary Manton Lodge

Juliette loves her life in Portland, Oregon.  She runs a successful restaurant with her brother and she has a steady boyfriend, Adrian, and a loving family. However, she is still grieving her beloved mother when the book begins and she finds herself missing her ex-boyfriend, Neil.  When she connects with Neil again unexpectedly, she has to make a choice...A crisis at the restaurant helps her to decide what is really important in her life...

Julie is also researching a family mystery concerning her great-uncle which will lead her  to finding long-lost cousins, a ch√Ęteau in France and a moving love story set in the horrors of the Second World War.  I found that there were several members of this family and it was quite complicated.  Perhaps, a family tree may have helped!

This was a charming  and romantic story with likeable, warm-hearted people, picturesque settings, a dramatic war-time tale and the bonus of delicious-sounding recipes!  Unfortunately, this is the third book in a series and I like to read series from the beginning.  I will certainly read the other books by Hillary Manton Lodge in order and find out how Juliette met Neil and Adrian.

I received this free ebook from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Saints by Simon Yarrow

This is a fairly academic but interesting look at the saints.  Yarrow studies the origins of the saints, different types of saints and their sanctification and canonisation.  He explores the role that St Paul played in the history of the saints in great depth.

I found the section of the book about the section of the book about the Reformation the most fascinating part.  Here, Yarrow writes about Erasmus who criticised pilgrimage, the cult of saints and the veneration of relics under the guise of an erudite fool.  He discusses the drastic solution to idolatry of iconoclasm, or the breaking of images, a practice that was unfortunately pretty widespread during the Reformation and the 39 Articles of the Anglican church.

This is worth reading if you are interested in the saints or for an assignment about their history.

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