Review – ‘Alexandria: The City that Changed the World’ by Islam Issa
Catholic Herald » Books
by John Ritzema
1w ago
Alexandria: The City that Changed the World Islam Issa Sceptre, £30, 496 pages In 331 BC, on the north coast of Egypt, an extraordinarily talented and hubristic young man ordered the construction of a new city. The location was well chosen: between the open sea of the Mediterranean and the freshwater lake Mereotis; a coastal island providing shelter for a future harbour; close to the fertile Nile Delta, but a sufficient distance to avoid its regular flooding. The location was also mythical, associated with a legendary visit by Helen of Troy. No doubt this was appreciated by the Greek colonists ..read more
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Review: Cloistered, by Catherine Coldstream
Catholic Herald » Books
by Sally Bayley
1w ago
Cloistered Catherine Coldstream Chatto & Windus, £20, 352 pages Charlotte Brontë’s classic bildungs-roman, Jane Eyre, tells the story of a young girl moving from a cruel adolescence to a cruel adulthood before finally settling into marriage with the man she had once rejected because God and her conscience had called her away. For years, Jane grieves deeply. Whilst reading Catherine Coldstream’s contemplative memoir, Cloistered, I often found myself recalling the spiritual structure of Bronte’s novel as a way of understanding why it is a woman in her late 20s might commit 12 years of her li ..read more
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Pope Francis’s latest book: reflections on history and moments of clarity
Catholic Herald » Books
by Serenhedd James
3w ago
Just over three years ago I wrote a piece for the Herald called “The Battle of the Papal Biographers” (March 2021). In it I noted that since 2013 there had been at least eight books written about Pope Francis in English, with others on the way. About one a year seems a pretty impressive run rate. Many authors have been complimentary about Pope Francis and his priorities; Christopher Lamb, Austen Ivereigh, Paul Vallely, Jimmy Burns and John Cornwell among them. Others have taken a more critical view; Henry Sire’s The Dictator Pope of 2017 is a significant outlier which, although anomalous, dese ..read more
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The Moral Life with James F Keenan explores subjects such as grief and vulnerability
Catholic Herald » Books
by Nick Ripatrazone
3w ago
“The question about our world is not really why so much violence, but why so little? Why are we not always at each other’s throats?” In 1997, the philosopher René Girard asked provocative questions in his compelling D’Arcy Lecture. Delivered annually at Campion Hall, Oxford since 1976, the lectures are in honour of Martin D’Arcy, SJ, the British philosopher who is perhaps the only Jesuit to have been published by TS Eliot (The Mind and the Heart of Love, 1945). D’Arcy’s literary and artistic interests have been well-represented by his titular lecturers, among them Girard (one of the only non-J ..read more
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REVIEW – The Illuminated Window: Stories across Time, by Virginia Chieffo Raguin
Catholic Herald » Books
by Mary Walker
3w ago
The Illuminated Window: Stories across Time Virginia Chieffo Raguin Reaktion Books, £30, 272 pages Writing in the first half of the 12th century, the monk and craftsman known as Theophilus Presbyter – in his three volume treatise on devotional art, De Diversis Artibus – lifted the lid on the ecclesiastical furnishings of his own day, their creation, function and use. His first and third books are devoted to painting and metalwork respectively, while the second concentrates on the use of stained glass, with its potential for what he calls works of “inestimable beauty”. A skill that went back to ..read more
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REVIEW – Crypt: Life, Death and Disease in the Middle Ages and Beyond, by Alice Roberts
Catholic Herald » Books
by Hannah Glickstein
3w ago
Crypt: Life, Death and Disease in the Middle Ages and Beyond Alice Roberts Simon & Schuster, £22, 352 pages Alice Roberts’s new book is the f nal instalment of a trilogy, which looks at death and burial using a “synthesis of history, archaeology and genetics”. In Crypt, unlike in her other books, Professor Roberts incorporates the study of disease. The result is a fine-grained yet elusive insight into moments in time. As Roberts explains in the epilogue, “archaeology is not the handmaiden of history”. Bone and biomolecules provide information about the past that is relatively free from the ..read more
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Reading ‘On This Holy Island: A Modern Pilgrimage Across Britain’ can leave you yearning for a bit more religious commitment
Catholic Herald » Books
by James Jeffrey
1M ago
On This Holy Island: A Modern Pilgrimage Across Britain by Oliver Smith Bloomsbury Continuum, £20, 256 pages A book about pilgrimage should make me a pushover as a reader. I love reading about pilgrimage, especially when imprisoned in the Catholic Herald basement office, forced to realise my pilgrimage dreams vicariously through books such On This Holy Island: A Modern Pilgrimage Across Britain, in which Oliver Smith retraces old pilgrimage routes and visits sacred sites all over the UK. Unfortunately, we did not get off to a good start. Admittedly, the problem wasn’t really Smith’s fault. It ..read more
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How Evelyn Waugh’s ‘cantankerous’ Catholicism clashed with America’s literary scene at a dinner party in Florence
Catholic Herald » Books
by Mark Roberts
1M ago
The conservative Catholic novelist Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) paid three visits to Harold Acton in Italy in the 1950s and 1960s. I should like to focus on a literary dinner party, a “social and culinary failure”, that took place in Florence in April 1950, during the first of Waugh’s three visits. In the spring of that year Acton’s amusing novella Prince Isidore had just been published. Waugh, whom Acton had not seen since the War, wrote out of the blue praising the novella (“What a delight Prince Isidore is!”) and inviting himself to stay. Waugh spent Holy Week in Rome, where he heard Mass ..read more
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New book on Venice could say more on religion’s role in the ‘impossible’ city 
Catholic Herald » Books
by Alexander Faludy
2M ago
Venice: The Remarkable History of the Lagoon City Denis Romano  Oxford University Press, £31.99, 904 pages The Renaissance scholar Francesco Sansovino (1521-1586) called Venice, and its watery setting, “the impossible in the impossible”. Situated in a tidal lagoon and built largely on artificial islands, the sheer improbability of magnificent churches and shimmering palaces emerging from the depths creates an abiding sense of the surreal in those fortunate enough to visit. Denis Romano’s new work seeks to make the miracle comprehensible. It spans a vast temporal sweep: from descriptions o ..read more
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Between the Cross and Resurrection: The Harrowing of Hell, according to J.R.R. Tolkien
Catholic Herald » Books
by Stefan Kaminski
2M ago
Easter time seems to get me reflecting on Tolkien’s Catholic imagination. I have previously written about how the dynamic of grace was portrayed in the experiences of the hobbit-protagonists of Tolkien’s Middle Earth sagas.  A key facilitator to this dynamic is, of course, the wizard Gandalf and the various ways in which he plays a Christ-like role, or otherwise serves to at least indicate the Divine action in some way. Gandalf offers spiritual and moral guidance to the hobbits and often speaks for, or of, what we might call Divine Providence. In fact, the word that most aptly captures Ga ..read more
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