Thursday, May 10, 2012

April Reading...before May is all done

Time flies, and it seemed to go especially quickly in April. Nevertheless, reading continues even on busy days, so here's the monthly recap:

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
I can't recall ever reading a fictional book that I enjoyed less, and I wasn't alone in that opinion, as everyone in my book club seemed to agree. Perhaps more die-hard Anglophiles might have found something to love in it, but I thought all the characters were deplorable narcissists - truly the biggest bunch of navel-gazers ever collected between the covers of a book! Just as the book of Judges is depressing because everyone did what was right in their own eyes, so this story is very depressing because vice and vanity are relentlessly pursued in an elusive search for happiness. With that said, however, Waugh did capture the essence of sin in the most succinct and raw fashion that I have read in a novel (at least as far as my memory serves). I'll quote it here so that you have the benefit of reflecting on its accuracy, and perhaps searching your heart to see if you have pet sins of which you should repent, and you can thank me for saving you the tedium of reading the book:

     "'Living in sin, with sin, by sin, for sin, every hour, every day, year in, year out. Waking up with sin in the morning, seeing the curtains drawn on sin, bathing it, dressing it, clipping diamonds to it, feeding it, showing it round, giving it a good time, putting it to sleep at night with a tablet of Dial if it's fretful.
     'Always the same, like an idiot child carefully nursed, guarded from the world. "Poor Julia," they say, "she can't go out. She's got to take care of her little sin. A pity it ever lived," they say, "but it's so strong. Children like that always are. Julia's so good to her little, mad sin."'" (287)

Now, that's not a pretty description, nor an encouraging one, but it certainly provides much to ponder, and if it leads to repentance, then my reading of this book was not in vain.

Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hopeby Mary Beth Chapman
I needed something real to counter the unreality of Brideshead Revisited (although a friend reminded me that such an empty life was/is a reality for some, which is a sobering thought). I had known of the Chapman's loss of one of their adopted daughters several years ago, but didn't really know much of the story. Mary Beth Chapman writes with honesty of the fears and struggles that she has experienced throughout her life of faith, with the greatest of these being the loss of 5-year-old Maria in 2008. I used the word "raw" for the description of sin above, and it applies here, too, though the contexts are so very different. The death of a child can shake one's faith to the core, and Mary Beth writes openly of her doubts, anger, and disbelief, and of her faith, security, and hope in God and the promise of heaven. It's an emotional story, but an encouraging one, a truthful one that depicts death as the enemy, Christ as the victor, and heaven as our home and hope.

 Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan and Oliver Hunkin
It's been a while since I've read Pilgrim's Progress, but this is an excellent children's version which retains both the language and the lessons of the original. My kids enjoyed this book, and I've already used its allegories to remind them of "fighting Apollyon" when they are having a difficult time with self-control. All too often, sin seems to be glossed over and excused rather than exposed and resisted. So while I will readily admit that all allegories have their shortcomings, I'm grateful for this tool to help my children understand some aspects of the Christian walk.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
I can't take credit for reading this one aloud, but I did listen while my husband, an original Tolkien fan (yes, before there were movies!), read this to our kids, ages 5 and 8. This was required reading before the Hobbit movie is released in December, but aside from the much-anticipated movie, it was delightful to share Middle Earth and Tolkien's wonderful story-telling with my family. So after you've enjoyed My Father's Dragon  (linked to my review) with your young readers, be sure to introduce them to Smaug (a not-so-nice dragon) and Bilbo Baggins!

See, this is how much of a Tolkien fan my husband is. These are bookcases that he built for our office/library a few years ago. Pretty cool, huh?


hopeinbrazil said...

I felt the same way about Brideshead. Everybody seemed so clueless (but that's what sin does to us!). Love your bookshelf!

Anonymous said...

My Mum read The Hobbit to us when we were little, still love it to this day.

Carrie said...

Jaw dropping envy over the bookcase! That is SO AWESOME!

I'm glad I'm not alone in not liking Brideshead Revisited. I gratefully no longer remember the details of the story, other than just knowing I didn't care for it.

Good to know of that version of Pilgrim's Progress! I'm glad you posted about it.