Saturday, 13 January 2018

Some book reviews

Sometimes I find links to interesting books in other reading and sometimes I get lucky in picking ones up at random in a library,  Just recently Frances has followed the first approach and got some big winners, which I have subsequently read.  Here are a few comments.

I think it is merely coincidence that the two main entries involve Catholic priests.  I'm certainly not leading off with my left foot!

The Attachment: Ailsa Piper and Tony Doherty

This is in essence an annotated exchange of emails between the authors, and largely about matters of faith and\or beliefs.  Ailsa Piper's relevant back-story is walking one of the routes of the Camino de Compostela.  The friendship described though the book began when Tony Doherty, a priest in Rose Bay, emailed her to compliment her on the book she wrote about that.

The narrative of the book is interesting, although not necessarily happy all the time, and I found the discussion of their beliefs to be very thought provoking.  My only small cloud on the horizon is that Tony doesn't give the hierarchy of the Church a massive serve.  (He clearly is very concerned about the abusive priests but it isn't so clear about the senior folk in the system that covered them up.)

Frances wasn't sure I'd enjoy this but it was great.

Things you get for free: Michael McGirr

The two stories in this are basically a trip report by Michael McGirr covering a 6 week trip to Europe with his Mum interspersed with segments about his early life and becoming a Jesuit and his parents marriage.  There is also some coverage of his  father's family, especially his aunt Trixie - introduced as a friend of McGirr's Mum , but gradually revealed as a Baroness and influential British politician.

Basically he is a very good writer - by which I mean he strings words together in a way that gets you interested and amused, not that he writes the turgid crap that wins Literary Prizes under the caption of "A Novel".  

There are many very funny bits in the book and some rather sad bits.   Given the success of other members of his father's family it is a bit hard to understand why McGirr's father was somewhat of a loser.  At one point he says something to the effect that "I never knew my Father to have a job." and the father certainly got along doing the best he can (described by Damon Runyan as an occupation that is heavily oversubscribed).

The religion is very much part of the book but in an interesting way.  He says he leaves the Jesuits, after the events described in this book but doesn't explain why.  Hopefully that will be covered in another book, which we'll be able to track down.

Bypass: Michael McGirr

This is a sequel to "Things you get for free" and does include an explanation of why he left the priesthood.  Given the significance of this decision it is done in a very low key way, and I wonder if there are other factors involved.

Again there is more than one story covered side by each.  I was originally going to say there were two:
  • the author's relationship with his girlfriend (now wife, so that is a happy tale); and
  • the history of the Hume Highway.
However on thinking about it I would now split the second into 3 parts:
  • the exploration of the route by Hume and Hovell;
  • the impact of the road on the towns it passes through (and what happened when they were bypassed  - note the title of the book); and 
  • the story of Cliff Young, winner of the first Sydney to Melbourne running race.
Overall it is much lighter in tone than the previous book.  A very good read, especially as I'm quite familiar with many of the towns.  I LOLed quite a few times!

For I will consider my dog Percy:  Mary Oliver

This is a bit of a cheat as it is a single, quite short, poem by Ms Oliver.  However it is an excellent bit of work describing a dog who is no more.  I wondered about many things in the poem and did a bit of Googling to try to find out. This revealed that his friend Ricky is a small hairy terrier and delivered a photo of Mary Oliver and Percy.
I expect to read a lot more of her stuff.

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