Reading on Retreat

As you will have read, in the previous post, I am just back from my annual silent retreat. Readers will know that I struggle with silence but do enjoy getting some time to catch up on reading. However this year our Retreat Leader – Margaret Silf – was so good that I spent much more time on her talks and pondering them after that I didn’t read as much as I’d intended. This is not a bad thing!

Testament of MaryMy first book was recommended by Mother Marion, I think, and was purchased at Christmas with an Amazon voucher courtesy of my Rector’s Warden. It is called The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin. What a strange little book. It is almost a novella, just 104 pages in my version, and ‘tells the story of a cataclysmic event which led to an overpowering grief’ for Mary, mother of our Lord. In her own words (or rather Colm Toibin’s) she tries to piece together the memories of the events that led to her son’s death.  Many of the familiar bible stories are in there but with an incredibly interesting twist. They have left me pondering them still and I know I will read it again, probably in Holy Week. 5 stars.

The second book was on my Kindle and was called The Italian Chapel by Philip Paris. You may remember I visited Orkney for the first time last summer and was greatly moved by the story of this unique chapel built by some Italian prisoners of war. This was, I thought, the story of that event put together by old documents and interviews with some of the prisoners who have since returned to Orkney to do some restoration work on the chapel. And very interesting it was too. It told the story of life on a bleak Scottish island where hundreds of Italian prisoners were sent to do work on what would become the Churchill barriers, keeping Scapa Flow safe from the enemy. And it told the story of a man who had a vision of creating a chapel for the Roman Catholic prisoners in which they could worship, and how it was put together with concrete and scavenged wood and plasterboard and billy cans and poster paint to become a beautiful chapel still used today for worship. What was disappointing was to discover that the story was probably more fiction than fact. Many of the characters were made up and  situations fabricated. I can’t help feeling a bit cheated and that I’d rather read that at the beginning of the book than at the end. And surely he had enough factual information to create a good book? 2 stars. (5 stars for the prisoners) The book could also have done with some photographs.


2 thoughts on “Reading on Retreat

  1. I think I would have felt cheated too … if it’s going to be fiction then the reader should be told! I might get the Testament of Mary – sounds interesting. Glad you had a restful time. Ready for Lent and Easter!

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