**spoiler alert** This book must get two separate ratings, I feel. It was amazing (which is the five-star assertion). But also, I liked it (which is t...more**spoiler alert** This book must get two separate ratings, I feel. It was amazing (which is the five-star assertion). But also, I liked it (which is the three-star assertion). Rather than getting it wrong from both sides and making an average, I will embrace the duality of Woolf herself and give it both, and neither.
It was a house full of unrelated passions, thinks Lily Briscoe upon returning to the Scotland summer home in search of closure. The woman artist stands on the lawn facing the house, trying to finish her painting after years of neglect. She feels she has escaped somehow, the life that these people, with their unrelated passions, have led. She pities them, and yearns for them.
To the Lighthouse is about "subject and object and the nature of reality." It is about "nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge." It is about fear and need, unresolved.
It is about beauty, and it is heartrending, broken beauty. "It was love, she thought, pretending to move her canvas, distilled and filtered; love that never attempted to clutch its object; but, like the love which mathematicians bear their symbols, or poets their phrases, was meant to be spread over the world and become part of the human gain."
It is about Virginia Woolf, and about lost humanity. Men, women, husbands, wives, children, friends, artists, all in her eyes and within her own life story, are answering or not answering the questions. What is truth? What is love? Why are we here? It is about choosing one's own way, and leaving others free to do the same.
I see gushing reviews and know that Woolf's writing deserves the praise. But her answers to the questions, espoused by so many now, have not resolved the fear and the need. Oh, that the world would come to know and glorify God, and find in Him all the abundance He freely offers through His Son, Jesus Christ!
As many reviewers have said, this book is a lovely blend of Dr. Moore's theological exposition of the Christian doctrine of adoption, a transparent ac...moreAs many reviewers have said, this book is a lovely blend of Dr. Moore's theological exposition of the Christian doctrine of adoption, a transparent accounting of his own experiences being an adoptive father, and a pastorly advice-book about some of the practical choices adoptive parents, family members, and churches must make. And, before I venture to say anything more specific than that, I really like Russell Moore. He manages, for me at least, to do something very difficult, and that is to let his personality and his struggles and his pursuit of the Lord through them come off the page in such a way that feels quite personal. He gets offended by "rude questions about adoption," he calls himself an idiot, he talks repeatedly to his readers in ways that he knows are confrontational, because he wishes someone had confronted him that way. So, that said, I appreciated a lot about this book. Adoption has resonated with me for a while, particularly in view of its reflection of who we are in Christ, and it was comforting and beautiful to see how the doctrine is worked out in both Old and New Testaments. At the same time, I squirmed when Moore wrote about the choice to adopt "special needs" children as if it weren't a calling for a special group of super-spiritual, extra-patient people who don't mind living their sunset years with their child still at home. I squirmed, and then I went back and read it again. I have thought eagerly about adopting some kind of "special needs" child--transracial adoption doesn't bother us if the need is greater there, developmental delays, behavioral struggles, these seem to be part of the adoption package. But a child who will never really grow up? When Jesus said to do good to those who can never repay it, and I kind of thought of it as an "every now and then" type deal, was my theology, and my love, warped? Obviously. So Dr. Moore helped me see that, and challenged me to repent. I also had to wrap my head around Moore's obvious belief that adoption is the business of every Christian and every church, in some way or another. Because of what God has done for us in Christ, and because of the fact that God has a passion for orphans, and our culture does not, adoption is not "something nice" some Christians might do, or "plan B" if the fertility treatments don't work out. Either by praying for or financially enabling adoptions, or by being an adoptive parent, or by counseling pregnant mothers in crisis situations, Moore says this is for the whole body of Christ. The magnitude of that claim means this is a book, and a doctrine, particularly, to revisit until I get saturated with where the Bible would have me stand. I had a couple of "meh" moments reading this book, but they really do seem unimportant compared to the really good and valuable things I gained from it. I highly recommend this to all Christians--it has more to do with us than we realize.(less)
I am still processing this book, which is like a window into a time and place many of us have never really seen before. Many in my book group were imp...moreI am still processing this book, which is like a window into a time and place many of us have never really seen before. Many in my book group were impressed by the thought that right there in the list of examples of utter human wickedness and abject suffering, among Hitler and Nazism, Stalin and his dictatorship, was Mao and his rule over the People's Republic of China. Since the hatred Mao seemed to feel was for humanity as a whole, and the suffering meant for every Chinese but himself, this tragedy seems even to exceed the others. Of course, since China is still somewhat closed to us, and we to it, there are few who would openly verify this. The window glimpses the period from the turn of the 20th century, when Chang's grandmother was born in Japanese-controlled Manchuria, through the overthrow of the Japanese by the Chinese with the help of the Russians, the advent of Communism, the overthrow of opposing Chinese governments, and, primarily, the awful reign of Mao, ending in 1978 when Chang left China for the west. Suffering is certainly a thread running through the tale, as the Chinese trade one kind of tyranny for another, but, as the title suggests, family is the strong motive force behind Chang's writing. The three "wild swans" whose lives are the meat of this story are portrayed as both strong and humane in the midst of societies that either hated women, hated the poor, hated the wealthy, children, intellectuals, or just hated everyone. Chang's father was also a strong thoughtful influence in contrast with the zeitgeist. Considering the apparent horror to which Chang and her family were subjected, and the lack of common knowledge about this time and place, it's impossible to know for certain whether she idealized her family or demonized the rest of society, although I do not doubt the overall truth of her story. It is obvious that the unburdening of both Chang's experience and her mother's (who dictated 60 hours of material for this book) was a catharsis. I took note of several interesting saving graces in this story, things I was reminded not take for granted. One was books; both of Chang's parents were incredibly well-read, as were she and her siblings, and they frequented China's black book market after all book collections had been burned. A second was traditional family values; Chang and her siblings would have turned out very differently if they hadn't had their very non-Communist grandmother caring for them. Third was the inner sense of justice that inspired Chang's and her siblings' passionate loyalty to their parents as they suffered unjustly (many young people in Chang's generation abandoned or turned against their parents when persecutions came). Finishing this book, I feel I've learned more about the world and about the deep depravity of humanity (as well as the amazing grace of God when He holds it back at all) and I want more than ever to dig into the story of cultures and societies I haven't learned about yet. I recommend Wild Swans with a warning: your heart will break some.(less)
4.5 stars. Why are there not half stars? George Eliot won me with Middlemarch. She kept me with Adam Bede. The full five stars were within its grasp, i...more4.5 stars. Why are there not half stars? George Eliot won me with Middlemarch. She kept me with Adam Bede. The full five stars were within its grasp, if it weren't for a couple of chapters where the author pushed the patience of even this lover of the pastoral pace. I probably didn't need the background of all of the Poysers' servants, who make no other appearance in the novel. But I've gotten a little better at knowing when to skim. Isn't reading delicious? The tale itself is about virtue and compassion, holiness and suffering, loyalty and betrayal, and consequences. It is set amid the advent of the evangelicals to Britain, and highlights the dichotomy between the comfortable morality of the Church of England and the passionate self-denial and soul-winning of the Methodists. There is some top-notch preaching given by the young Dinah Morris, who has become one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. This doesn't make Adam Bede a religious novel, however. It may surprise modern, post-Christian readers (it even surprised me, definitely not post-Christian) that George Eliot had completely rejected God by the time she wrote this novel. Her early life was full of strong religious influences, and it is obvious that the themes fascinated and did not entirely offend her. It is praiseworthy that she created Dinah Morris, so thoroughly committed to the way of Christ, as a deep and admirable character who does not fail to leave people better than she finds them. I am being unfair to the title character, however. Adam is the thread at the center of most of the tale, although several other characters get significant alone time with the narrator (who is also quite a character!). He is complex too, perhaps the most complex, because he so fully exceeds the standards of other men in his class, in thoughtfulness, intelligence, diligence, self-control, and loyalty. Furthermore, he grows, through brokenness, and learns compassion on top of them all. There are two characters who contribute exclusively to the suffering and brokenness of Adam Bede, and they are (amazingly) not caricatures either. Foolish, selfish, self-deceived, but real. I doff my hat to Ms. Evans (Eliot)--she had studied people very well. And there is comic relief; what hillside hamlet could be considered remotely genuine without its share of loud-mouthed men and women whose opinions everyone knows? And there is joy--the narrator's descriptive powers are almost magical, and I don't mind reading for pages and pages without anything "happening." Read Adam Bede. It's wonderful. (less)
"The man who cannot believe his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, are both insane, but their insanity is proved not by any error i...more"The man who cannot believe his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, are both insane, but their insanity is proved not by any error in their argument, but by the manifest mistake of their whole lives. They have both locked themselves up in two boxes, painted inside with the sun and stars; they are both unable to get out, the one into the health and happiness of heaven, the other even into the health and happiness of the earth. Their position is quite reasonable; nay, in a sense it is infinitely reasonable, just as a threepenny bit is infinitely circular. But there is such a thing as a mean infinity, a base and slavish eternity."
G.K. Chesterton's writing is terribly likeable--no wonder even those who reject Christian ideology enjoy reading him. He is a master of argument, as the above quote shows, and this little book is full of such forcefully clever nuggets. The five star rating is not for the whole book, however, but for the section entitled "The Ethics of Elfland," which I loved so ecstatically that I cannot quote you my favorite part without quoting the greater part of it. In a pitiful attempt to summarize it, the rules governing fairy tales, which enable us to accept magic beans and the like, are far more reasonable than rules which limit one's worldview to what can be measured empirically. I'm not even going to try to do more, so you have to read that part. You'll want to go read some fairy tales afterward.
So, one fantastically great section, other parts with good and clever bits, other parts I found a little sluggish, and some just-plain-wrong stuff too (I laughed when I read another author who had scribbled in his copy of Orthodoxy, "Don't listen to what Chesterton says about Calvin. He's nuts!"--because that's just what I thought). It's a true cheese platter book. But the good cheese is so good. (less)
I love to read (sometimes). I love books (too much?). I love lists of books (way too much). When maturity reigns, I love wisdom, truth, and beauty fro...moreI love to read (sometimes). I love books (too much?). I love lists of books (way too much). When maturity reigns, I love wisdom, truth, and beauty from books. Tony Reinke's Lit! is a thoughtful, helpful, challenging book about why, how, and how much a Christian should read. It is thoughtful because, before delving into the "how-to" of being a good reader, he addresses the theology of reading for Christians. I felt these first six chapters actually could have used a bit more editing for conciseness, but nevertheless his points are crucial if our reading is to be communion with God and not simply an intellectual or aesthetic exercise. Be patient, and don't skip this part. It fleshes out the supremacy of Scripture, the need for Gospel lenses in reading, why words trump images in communication, what makes a biblical worldview and how to interpret other worldviews, the value of, and standards for choosing non-Christian literature, and the necessity of imaginative literature for the Christian. Part two is called "Some Practical Advice on Book Reading." I was challenged to make concrete priorities to guide the books I choose (so simple, but I hadn't formally done it), and to ask questions before reading that I expected to be answered. I was granted permission to stop reading a book that didn't answer the questions (shocking!) or to read isolated sections of non-fiction books that are pertinent without feeling pressured to finish the whole thing (what?). When to read fast, when to read slow, the value of fiction, why and how to scribble in the margins without getting bogged down, how to guard my reading time and make sure deep contemplation is not destroyed by internet habits (ouch!), and how to come away with the nuggets I'll go back to again and again. I also came away with a whole list of other books to read (one of my favorite things). The dust is still settling from my reading of this book, and I'm challenging myself as a seeker of wisdom not to bounce on to the next thing (more Reinke advice), but I am ready to take away a couple more nuggets now: as I have mulled over this book in Kindle format, attempting to read it as I would prefer to do, marking and writing, flipping back and forth, going over notes and highlighted sections, I wanted to throw the Kindle across the room. The codex prevails for deep reading! (Then again, I think I got this book free on Kindle.) But perhaps my take-away is that, if a book is good enough to motivate me to do that, it's good enough to buy a hard copy. Also, and most importantly, I was reminded that Christian reading, just like Christian everything-else, is for God's glory and should be purposeful. I'm thankful for all of these challenges and genuinely feel better equipped to read "Christianly." (less)