The Source of Sanctification: Human or Divine?

Review of The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson BurnettBy ALEXIS NEALMistress Mary, quite contrary,How does your garden grow?With silver bells and cockle shellsAnd marigolds all in a row!So goes the nursery rhyme taunt sung to the central character in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel, The Secret Garden. And the shoe certainly fits: Mary Lennox is quite contrary. And little wonder: Born in India to wealthy British parents, she’s always been given her way in ev … [Read more...]

Madam Bovary

Review of Madam Bovary by Gustave FlaubertBy PAUL D. MILLER[Spoilers] Emma Bovary is an idiotic, listless romantic who pines for love and meaning. She tries to find it in novels, marriage, motherhood, two adulterous affairs, Catholic religion, and opulent living. Crushed by debt, she commits suicide. The end.Despite its perfunctory plot, Madame Bovary is nonetheless engaging and Flaubert has some wonderfully descriptive prose. The characters have depth and the book kept my attention. … [Read more...]

Riders of the Purple Sage

Review of Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane GreyBy ALEXIS NEALYoung, beautiful Jane Withersteen seems to have it made.  She owns several thousand head of cattle, a powerful lot of land, the fastest, most beautiful pair of black racehorses in the state, and the only spring for miles around.  But trouble is looking for Jane Withersteen.  See, as a wealthy, unmarried Mormon woman, she’s quite the catch for the men in her community, and Elder Tull has had his eye on her for quite a while.  Ja … [Read more...]

The Philosophy of Murder

Review of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoevskyBy PAUL D. MILLERCrime and Punishment may be the most theologically explicit and ambitious novel ever written.  It attempts nothing less than the conviction of nihilism and postmodernism for the sins latent within them, and the conversion of their adherents to Christianity. The books follows a young man, Raskolnikov, as he murders an old woman; is consumed by guilt; eventually confesses; and is exiled to Siberia.  He tells himself th … [Read more...]

The Age of Innocence

Review of The Age of Innocence by Edith WhartonBy PAUL D. MILLERWhy does Newland Archer walk away? That is the parting question of this powerful story. This novel is a fascinating and minute observation of broken relationships, the power of convention, and the tempting pull of vain dreams. It is almost mournful and yearning in posing, but not answering, troubling questions.The book traces the story of Newland Archer, who pursues but never consummates an affair with Ellen Olenska; in … [Read more...]

Huck Finn – When Great Books Were Fun

Review of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainBy PAUL D. MILLERGreat books are great because of their depth and because of how they teach great truths about human life.  But because most great books are very old, they require the reader to do some heavy lifting to get to the good stuff.  You have to have a good set of notes to understand the historical context and the allusions of, say, Homer or Virgil.  The less timeless a book, the more work you have to do to extract meaning fr … [Read more...]

Epic Men

Review of The Song of RolandBy PAUL D. MILLERThe Song of Roland is the medieval French Catholic Crusader abridged version of the Iliad.  It tells the story of the rearguard of Charlemagne’s army, led by the eponymous Roland, fighting against overwhelming numbers at the Battle of Roncesvalles in 778. Imagine the armies of Agamemnon, dressed in Renaissance finery, spouting Scripture as they slay hordes, not of Trojans, but Saracens. It is a story full of bravura, gore, and heroism. As with all … [Read more...]

Wuthering Heights

Review of Wuthering Heights by Emily BrontëBy PAUL D. MILLERWuthering Heights was voted Britain’s favorite love story in 2007, according to the Guardian—which is what I hated so intensely about the book.Wuthering Heights is not primarily a love story. The love story is the pretext for a story about addiction, slavery, and revenge. That story is well told, gripping, and completely without hope. It put me in a bad mood reading it. I hated all the characters. I yearned for a glimmer of brigh … [Read more...]

Robinson Crusoe

Review of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DefoeBy PAUL D. MILLERI love this book. The practical parts were fun. I loved seeing Crusoe’s inventiveness and industry. I would certainly have perished. After the part about Crusoe domesticating the goats and getting milk, butter, and cheese out of them, I asked Google how to make cheese: I am tempted to try to make homemade cheese just to see if I could. It was fascinating seeing what use he could make of different things, and what things he found u … [Read more...]

David Copperfield

Review of David Copperfield by Charles DickensBy PAUL D. MILLER“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anyone else, these pages must show.” I immediately liked the tenor of the book from the first sentence. Dickens is very funny—I loved the witty asides—and some of the writing, in particular that chapter about the storm in which Ham is killed near the end of the book, is absolutely terrific and unforgettable.It seems to me that Copper … [Read more...]