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Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark’s 1988 novel — a drama, a mystery and a comedy in approximately equal measure — is in some ways a nostalgic, yet unsanitised reflection on the London publishing industry of the fifties. We travel back to postwar London, still pockmarked by the Second World War. Our guide on this journey is Mrs. Hawkins — an ageing insomniac in…

Book Review: Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

What happens when something that you don’t understand and want to escape ends up pulling you in and throws your whole world off balance? That’s the question at the heart of Flannery O’Connor’s darkly comic novel Wise Blood. We meet Hazel Motes, a World War II veteran. He’s pursued by Christ, and he is desperate to evade him. Then there’s…

Book Review: A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

The dynamics of daily life, the intricacies of human relationships, and people with prestige or power in our communities can appear to be of unfaltering importance. Yet human existence is fundamentally evanescent and that’s what Evelyn Waugh explores in his 1934 novel A Handful of Dust. We meet a group of English socialites and at the heart of this group…

Book Review: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Actions — Refuge Through Activism at Ottawa’s St. Joe’s Parish by Stéfanie Morris et. al.

It’s a unique event in the life of a Roman Catholic parish when a Canadian university press publishes a monograph on one of its ministries. In fulfilling its mission over the past 30 years, the St. Joe’s Refugee Outreach Committee (ROC) has, of course, extended far beyond the boundaries of its home parish — helping to settle more than 200…

Book Review: Memento Mori by Muriel Spark

Death is humanity’s common denominator and also the great equalizer. In her 1959 novel Memento Mori, Dame Muriel Spark uses sharp language and imagery to make her many characters face the fear of the one inevitable event in life that they would most desire to avoid. Spark dissects with the keenest scalpel her characters. She pulls away the thin veneer…

Book Review: Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

In this coming-of-age story, Adib Khorram provides the sort of dimension to Persian culture and to Iran as a country that one is unlikely to find in much of the media. And while offering vignettes on Persian customs, cuisine, the Farsi language, landmarks and the demography of Iran, the novel’s overarching theme is that of mental illness. The protagonist, sixteen…

Book Review: On Consolation by Michael Ignatieff

How do we find solace amidst grief and turmoil, especially when we struggle to believe in a God who lends order to existence? That question forms the basis of Michael Ignatieff’s newest book. He begins his journey by exploring the Psalms, the Old Testament story of Job and the life of the Apostle Paul. In this survey-style presentation of western…

Book Review: The Lawless Roads by Graham Greene

The Lawless Roads is as much a reflection on sin, and on how every human is inescapably marked by it, as it is a travel account of Graham Greene’s trip to Mexico in 1938. It’s also a reflection on borders — both physical and metaphysical — and how crossing these boundaries impacts and transforms the individual. The Longman publishing company…

Book Review: Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

The 1930 novel Vile Bodies is where we truly experience Evelyn Waugh’s humour, his masterful dialogue and his searing commentary on high society in interwar Britain. Much like The Loved One or Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies reflects on serious and uncomfortable subject matter through satire and by channelling the absurd. At the heart of the novel is Adam Fenwick-Symes,…