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Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: Greene on Capri by Shirley Hazzard

Essayist Shirley Hazzard’s memoir on her friendship with Graham Greene and the expatriate colony on the Italian island of Capri is a substantive and reflective read, in spite of its brevity. It’s a lyrical account of something and someone long vanished, written by an author to whom “it seemed time that a woman should write of Graham Greene.” At the…

Book Review: My Man in Antibes by Michael Mewshaw

A fledgling novelist in his twenties writes a letter to one of the bestselling authors of the twentieth century. He not only receives a response, but he’s also invited to the author’s apartment for drinks. So begins an unexpected friendship between British author Graham Greene and a young American, Michael Mewshaw, in the early 1970s. It would persist across countries…

Book Review: A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene

Set in a leper colony deep in the Congo, on the cusp of African decolonization, an atheist doctor from Europe and members of a Catholic religious order from Belgium cooperate in caring for society’s most rejected. Located in the remote, humid jungle far from the nearest town of Luc, Doctor Colin and the priests are happy to keep their leprosarium…

Book Review: Why God Won’t Go Away by Alister McGrath

King’s College Theology Professor Alister McGrath’s 2010 book Why God Won’t Go Away is a refreshing read in this age of brash clickbait and sweeping statements. He can peel off discredited New Atheism from the broader atheist or secular humanist movement, treating serious thinkers with the respect that is their due, while pulling to pieces New Atheists for their anti-intellectualism…

Book Review: Gull Island by Anna Porter

There’s a ubiquitous template for many contemporary novels and it goes something like this: “an inspiring story of an oppressed protagonist who overcomes all odds and discovers herself.” Anna Porter’s Gull Island, however, is truer to life than to aspirational, preachy fiction. It’s the story of a profoundly dysfunctional family and thirty-something Jude Bogdan’s stumbling, alcohol-drenched quest to make sense…

Book Review: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Sarah Miles is a saint. She’s also an adulterer who labels herself “a bitch and a fake.” Graham Greene’s 1951 novel The End of the Affair, narrated in the first-person, tells the story of how Sarah’s embittered and fanatically envious ex-lover pursues her following the end of their romance. That plot provides the opening for Greene to explore the themes…

Book Review: The Relaxists by Alton Spencer

Oregon-based author Alton Spencer sent me a copy of his ruminative novel The Relaxists¬†in exchange for a book review on this site. I recall a time in the nineties, in my teenage years, when I was enlivened by the breadth of knowledge in the world — particularly the overwhelming richness of human civilization’s cultural and literary history. There was so…

Book Review: Loser Takes All by Graham Greene

Graham Greene referred to his 1955 novella Loser Takes All as a “frivolity.” Yet that shouldn’t lead any reader to think that this book is throwaway pulp fiction. The story of a couple vacationing in Monte Carlo may be light-hearted fare, but the writing includes Greene’s celebrated, signature style: sharp dialogue, economical and precise language that paints a vivid picture,…

Book Review: Making a Psychopath — My Journey into 7 Dangerous Minds by Mark Freestone

It might seem counterintuitive to describe Dr. Mark Freestone’s book exploring psychopathy as a breezy read, yet that’s exactly what it was. That’s also why I found it this summer amongst the modest selection of books for purchase at London’s overcrowded Stansted Airport, catering to travellers seeking something comfortable enough to read while crammed into the narrow, hard seats of…

Book Review: Be Near Me by Andrew O’Hagan

Father David Anderton is the new parish priest of the economically depressed Scottish coastal town of Dalgarnock. He’s thoughtful and book-smart. But he’s also naive and demonstrates poor judgment. When he ignores the principle of maintaining boundaries in pastoral ministry and befriends two troubled teens, he hurtles towards disaster. Page by page, the reader sees with growing clarity that Father…