The Chain by Anna Rist (Angelico Press, £15). Author and poet Anna Rist has written a novel subtitled “A Story of Faith Seeking Understanding”. Focusing on an English Catholic family living through the 20th century and affected by the end of the British Empire, Vatican II and various social upheavals, the author deftly shows how a family is shaped both by its own human flaws and by the grace given through faith. Following the tradition of Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, Rist demonstrates that it is possible to write an engaging modern novel where religious belief is psychologically convincing.
Alms by Brice Sokolowski (Apophatic, £15). Skilfully navigating the confusing world of charitable giving, Sokolowski, who has raised funds for Westminster diocese, provides what he describes as a “definitive guide to the ‘ins and outs’ of Catholic fundraising”. Discussing themes such as generosity and the particular qualities of Catholic almsgiving, the author has written a useful set of guidelines for anyone working in a Catholic organisation who wants to know more about work that combines ethical business strategies and up-to-date technological know-how.
So You Can’t Forgive? by Brian Lennon SJ (Messenger Publications, £7.95). The author, who has spent more than 30 years helping those affected by the conflict in Northern Ireland and other places, asks how people can forgive acts of terrible violence or abuse within the family. He suggests there are four elements involved: accepting that one’s anger is legitimate; relinquishing a desire for revenge; learning to distinguish between the act and the perpetrator; and learning to pray for the perpetrator. If a person has been deeply wronged, they still need to ask if they want to carry the bitterness all their life.
The First Day by Phil Harrison (Fleet, £12.99). After years in the wilderness, the past decade has seen a massive upswell of literary talent emerging from Northern Ireland and the shadow of the Troubles. In Harrison’s debut novel, Pastor Samuel Orr runs an east Belfast mission house, but one day he falls in love with one of his parishioners. When her pregnancy is discovered, everything in his life begins to fall apart. Fast forward 30 years, and their illegitimate son sets out to find the truth of his past only to uncover a world of long-held resentments, murder and religious intolerance. Harrison writes well and brings Belfast and the sectarian conflict vividly to life.
Soot by Andrew Martin (Corsair, £14.99). A former journalist Andrew Martin has carved a niche with his popular and engaging Edwardian railways detective series. Soot sees Martin going further back in time, to York in the year 1799. The body of an artist, a silhouette cutter, is found, and guilt seems to point towards one of his clients. When the murdered man’s son hires a detective to find his father’s killer, things take an unexpected turn. But it is not the plot that dazzles but Martin’s sure-handed evocation of England at the turn of the 18th century. A fascinating read.
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