The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J. M. Nouwen (Review)

The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J. M. Nouwen

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About the author

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Henri Nouwen was a renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor of the L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto. His many bestselling books include The Return of the Prodigal Son, Home Tonight and Bread for the Journey. He died in 1996.

Blurb

The Inner Voice of Love is Henri Nouwen’s ‘secret journal’. It was written during the most difficult period of his life when, following the breakdown of a close relationship, he lost his self-esteem, his energy to live and work, his sense of being loved – even his hope in God.

For a long time Henri felt that what he had written during this time was too raw, intense and private to share. Instead he produced The Return of the Prodigal Son, in which he expressed some of the insights he had gained during the crisis. However, as time went on his feelings changed due partly in response to the persuasion of friends who asked ‘Why keep your anguish hidden from the people who have been nurtured by your writing? Wouldn’t it be a consolation for them to know about the fierce inner battle that lies beneath many of your spiritual insights?’

The warm reception enjoyed by The Inner Voice of Love over the years testifies to Henri’s generosity and wisdom in sharing this difficult part of his journey. For everyone who is living through the pain of broken relationships or suffering from the loss of a loved one, this book offers new courage, new hope, even new life.

Review

A friend recommended this book to me and last year I started to read it, since then I have dipped into it and read a little occasionally. This book is made up of one to three page reflections, which are all under different titles.

At the beginning I enjoyed this book and found it useful but as it went on I found it rather repetitive and it started to drag. I realise this book was written at a very difficult time of Nouwen’s life but I think it should have been edited as certain parts are basically saying the same thing but are just under a different title.

I also disagreed to a certain extent with his advice about relationships and how breaking of relationships can be devastating. As a priest he has never experienced in my opinion the biggest relationship which is marriage. Marriage is sacred and in the eyes of God forever, and to cope with a marriage break up must be devastating but Nouwen has no true experience of this, yes he will have seen marriage break ups and experienced the end of friendships and loss of loved ones but in my opinion he can not generalise all relationships like he does in the book.

I also disagreed with the fact that most of his reflections seem to be based on Nouwen withdrawing from society. This I do not find to be beneficial to anyone, everyone needs help from friends, everyone needs to know there is someone there for them.

All in all I found this book a bit of a struggle as I did not agree with all of it and found it repetitive. As a Christian I agreed with a lot about what was said about God in our lives but not all of it. I gave this book 2 out 5 Dragons.

Purchase from Waterstones

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On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas De Quincey (Review)

On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas De Quincey

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About the author

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Thomas De Quincey was born on the 15th August 1785 and died on the 8th December 1859. He was an English essayist best known for Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.

Blurb

The provocative early-nineteenth-century essayist casts a blackly comic eye over the aesthetics of murder through the ages.

Review

So on to the fourth Penguin Little Black Classics book and this one really took me out of my comfort zone. I picked this book up thinking normally I would never dream of reading a book about murder being a fine art and to be honest after this I do not think I will read another book about murder being an art form.

I did struggle a great deal with this book and I really did not see the comic side in it that is mentioned in the blurb. I found it very hard to get into and very disturbing that people seem to enjoy studying murder. I also did not like the fact that murder was referred to as an art form. However it wasn’t all bad, I did find certain little stories inside it interesting, for instance the story about Descartes was very interesting.

I think it was a disturbing essay and it made me wonder what type of mind Quincey has to come up with this essay. However the essay was an eye opener about things that were happening in that point of history. However I didn’t really enjoy the book and wouldn’t read it again. This is why sadly I have only given the book 1 Dragon out of 5.

To purchase this book from Waterstones please click here.

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The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne

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About the author

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Paula Byrne is a British author and biographer with a PHD from the University of Liverpool. Byrne is married to the Shakespeare scholar Sir Jonathan Bate.

Blurb

Who was the real Jane Austen? A retiring spinster content with quiet village life? Or a strong-minded woman who chose to remain unmarried and to fashion herself as a professional writer?

Bestselling biographer Paula Byrne uses objects that conjure up a key moment in Austen’s life and work – a vellum notebook, a topaz cross, a writing box and a bathing machine – to unlock the biography of this most beloved author. The woman who emerges is far tougher, more socially and politically aware, and altogether more modern than the conventional picture of ‘dear aunt Jane’ allows. Byrne’s lively book explores the many forces that shaped Austen’s life and her long struggle to become a published author, and brings Miss Austen dazzlingly into the twenty-first century.

Review

As I think I have mentioned before I discovered this book in the hotel room where I was staying in Bath over New Year and I began reading it there and bought a copy of my own from the Waterstones in Bath. I must confess that I am not the best at reading non-fiction but this book read really easily and did not seem like a biography. Whilst reading it, I have been using the lovely card we had on New Year from the hotel as a book mark as shown in the picture below.

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From the first chapter of this book I was hooked, I loved the the way it was laid out, each chapter focusing on an object owned by Jane Austen. I enjoyed how Byrne linked everything together with Austen’s life, her letters, her adventures, and her novels. Byrne has quite clearly spent a great deal of time researching Jane Austen and reading all of Jane Austen’s novels.

I found this biography to be quite an easy read that did not require too much brain power to get through. I find some biographies of famous authors quite in-depth and difficult to read and I have to dip in and out of the book. This book flowed easily and I read it fairly quickly. The only thing I disliked was how Byrne put across Austen’s opinions, when really nobody knows for sure what her opinions were and Byrne is clearly making educated guesses. I would much rather she had kept to the cold hard facts and opinions that Austen expressed in her letters.

I did find Byrne was rather obsessed with Mansfield Park but I did not mind this too much as it has encouraged me to read it again, as it has been some time since I have read it. I would also like to read Lady Susan as I have never got round to reading it but own two copies of it.

My favourite chapters were actually the last two chapters The Royalty Cheque and The Bathing Machine. The Royalty Cheque I enjoyed because it showed Austen making a living from her novels and enjoying some of her own success. I also did not realise that the Prince Regent was such a fan of Austen’s novels and that Emma was dedicated to him and Austen paid for and had a special three volume set of Emma given to the Prince Regent which is still today in the Royal Collection. It is the little facts like this in the biography which makes the book such a joy to read. The Bathing Machine made me giggle quite a bit I must confess, the idea of ladies being fully covered in clothes and going for a swim or a paddle around if they could not swim to be quite funny but also dangerous. I do not think the freezing temperatures would have done the bathers any good at all.

I truly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to any Jane Austen fan, I have already recommended it to my sister, who introduced me to the works of Jane Austen when I was little. It is an excellently put together biography which links together beautifully and the illustrations and photos are excellent. I have given this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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