#CathLit2019 2nd quarter + Book Review

That time of the month again, eh. Time flies. And as we reach the end of June, so we reach the end of the second quarter of the Catholic Literary Challenge. And since the theme of this month’s Book Review with Rory of According to Rory is Cheap Books, it makes sense to get them together as I have a number of public domain stuff and an e-book of Chesterton I paid 89 pence. You can read about last quarter here.

I am still reading Thomas à Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ” at what is a ridiculously slow pace because that book is just so much to handle. However, I have read the whole of The Lord of The Rings, or more accurately listened to the lot on audiobook while either in bed with a migraine or too tired to consider reading in book form. I have changed the spiritual memoir to “The Story of a Soul” by St Thérèse of Lisieux, as I’m pretty convinced saints call us to themselves when there is something we can learn from them and at present, I am much into a Carmelite phase (thank you Good Counsel Network for the beautiful prayer card by the way).

I have also read the full Father Brown stories by Chesterton, which are hysterical, and started Orthodoxy which was not really on the list but that’s what Joy Clarkson’s book club is reading. I would argue that I can count it as a conversion story and therefore when finished in the next quarter add it up to the count. A few more changes: I want to read “The Interior Castle” by St Teresa of Avila so I will swap that with Utopia since I’ve read that before and I really think my prayer life needs more contemplation than satire at present, and I will soon get started on my long-suffering friend Prof Bullivant’s book “Mass Exodus” for the recent release, moving Haley Stewart’s book to Book by a Catholic Woman instead of the chosen option I seem to have lost in my flat. I have also made very little progress in the challenge because Audible has free audiobooks and two months in a row they were Jane Austen, as well as the choices for the Book Club being not Catholic so far.
7/19 down, 12 to go.

Now, onto Father Brown. Let me start by saying I have only become acquainted with the existence of Chesterton in recent years, because I worked with someone who is really passionate about the cause of his canonisation, but he was not in my English curriculum either in high school or at the University of Milan. I had not read anything by him until this spring and had only a vague understanding of what to expect in his style.

I was glad I did, because otherwise it would have been like the first time I read Pride and Prejudice and didn’t get it and therefore didn’t like it that much. If one takes them at face value, they just seem really weird stories with an anti-hero that is very boring, and can come across as really preachy…a bit like your average Christian film that gets no more than 15% on Rotten Tomatoes. One has to be very attuned to British humour to get them, and once you do they are really funny in their lack of realism.

I have annotated a few quotes I really love, and it goes from deep stuff like “He was one of the great humanitarian French freethinkers; and the only thing wrong with them is that they make mercy even colder than justice” to more facetious ones like “It was one of those journeys on which a man perpetually feels that now at last he must have come to the end of the universe, and then finds he has only come to the beginning of Tufnell Park” which is hashtag relatable if you have ever been on a bus in London.

One of the most appealing aspects of any of Chesterton’s works is the critique of the modern man, as defined in Chapter 2 of Orthodoxy. Father Brown, in his humility and very simple persona hiding great observation and acumen, as well as a realistic knowledge and understanding of the human race, is a stark contrast with any grand characters that are presented in these stories, showing us in more or less believable real life situations what was at the heart of Chesterton’s philosophy. They are cautionary tales against what it means to think too highly of one’s intellect (and even as a Catholic, I see myself more in the figures that make a fool of themselves than in good old Father Brown).

Aside from the philosophical depth, they are very enjoyable mystery short stories that have their own internal coherence if you suspend your beliefs about the real world, as all fairy tales do. While they are, in a sense, Catholic stories, I think they can be enjoyed by anyone of any belief that doesn’t take themselves and their beliefs too seriously (after all, the hero is always an unassuming Catholic priest from Essex).

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