Virginia Barton

1 February 2019: Additions to the bookshelf


1 February 2019


How many new books were you given for Christmas? I was given three. One is what I call a browser book; I shall certainly read it from cover to cover but not immediately. I put it straight onto Kindle as, alas, the dwindling eyesight couldn’t quite cope with the small font.

It’s a joy of a book as far as I’m concerned and could have been written precisely for me. Called New Short History of the Catholic Church, it’s written by the well-known Jesuit priest, Norman Tanner, Professor of Church History, at the “Greg.” in Rome. It’s extremely accessible, by which I mean that this octogenarian finds it easy to absorb and understand. I don’t want to have to read every sentence twice and puzzle over it; neither do I wish to be dazzled by long words and tortuous sentences crafted for the conceit of the author. There is none of that here. Straightforward history told straightforwardly.

I can’t do better than quote a bit from the back cover:

“Here is a one volume history of the Christian people from Pentecost to the present day…”

What could be more inviting than that to the curious layman? Here are councils, crusades, heretics and martyrs, and all the rich fabric of Church life.

“… the scope is wide; the pace of the narrative attractive.”

I hope that convinces you; for me it’s a treat in store.


Book two is a collection of “missives and fragments”, e-mails, reflections and prayers collected after the death of Sister Mary David, by friends, family and admirers. I have written about Sister Mary David at least twice I think, she was a remarkable and much-loved Sister at St Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight.

The Anthology is called The Bright Field after the poem by RS Thomas; a facsimile of which is reproduced as a frontispiece in Sister Mary David’s rather beautiful calligraphy. This is a devotional book which will be cherished by those who knew her– and they are legion, all over the world. A lovely tribute.


Three cheers for my last book, which is actually the one I read first because it’s a 30-page picture book, and I do love a picture book. Written and illustrated by Madeleine Wilson, it’s called Lost Children of the Night.

From the very first sentence you are filled with dangerous foreboding. Soldiers are on the move, they have already taken your parents, now they are after you. The poem, as repetitive as the tappity-tap of train wheels, has an urgency that runs throughout — a relentless pursuit. These are child refugees, of different places and decades but with the same old story: hunt, capture, escape, on the run, capture.

The illustrations are absolutely outstanding. Stark, dark, angular menacing, with a colour palette to match, they capture the mood of the poem exactly.

The author has generously donated all profits to Save the Children. It’s the sort of book I buy ten copies at a time, a) because it’s a joy to give away and b) because it’s cheap enough to do so.

(Quite apart from the fact that all the proceeds going to a good cause.)



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