10 January 2007

Inaugural Issue: E Train Review of Books

I'm making up a few hours of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at New York Presbyterian Hospital this week and next -- and that means lots of time on the E train to and from the hospital. And lots of time to read. And blessedly, I can read fiction, mysteries, histories... whatever I want til the end of the month and the beginning of the Easter term. So, I'll be 'publishing' here in installments my reviews of my subway reading:

R. F. Delderfield's To Serve Them All My Days
A great read if you like this sort of thing. Takes place in a fictional English boys' boarding school. The protagonist is a WWI vet suffering from shellshock. The boys and commonsense headmaster help him to heal and to find a purpose in life after the horrors of war.
Serve Them is an excellent example of the genre of 'public school' novel. The boys and their high jinks are at times hilarious, and the character of the veteran-now-school teacher is well drawn. There's a surprisingly frank and open treatment of unmarried sex in the novel, which suprised me given the era it covers, but not so surprising when one notes the publication date: 1971 I believe. I give it 3 stars -- might even try to rent the old Masterpiece Theatre dramatization of the novel if we ever get a snowy weekend in New York. I've read quite a bit of fiction that takes place entre guerres. (Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy and Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge novels, for example.) I'm interested in the effects of WWI on Europe and Modernism. IMHO it was the horrors of that war that initiated the modern European disdain for religion. I'm not sure why, but Serve Them was compelling and moving in parts. I guess you could file it under: They Don't Write 'Em Like That Anymore and call it a day. I really loved it and could hardly put it down.

I'm giving it:

A. N. Wilson's My Name Is Legion
Wilson's one of my favorites. After reading Legion, I'm determined to make it through his entire catalog. This novel is what they call a 'biting satire' of the Fleet Street newspaper world. A world Wilson knows well from his days as editor and columnist at the Evening Standard. This novel weaves a satirical tale around a crusading Anglican priest, a corrupt African regime, a Murdoch-esque newspaper owner and a schizophrenic West Indian teenager. Quite a tale and very funny and all too sad at the same time. Wilson is a bit of a literary brainiac and historian who spent a year preparing for the priesthood in the good ole CofE before devolving into agnosticism. He's known for his snarky commentary in British newspapers. I've read his biograhy of the apostle Paul and his history of the Victorians -- both excellent! He's that rare author with more than one area of expertise, but with a consistently expert and interesting style.

My rating:

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