Survey #3: Because of What Catholic Fiction?

A few weeks back I asked readers to cite poems that have inspired them. The results, summarized a few days later, sent me off in search of verse by Donne, Thompson, Yeats, and Auden. Next, I asked for hymns, and because my knowledge of music is even poorer than my knowledge of poetry, I let the comments at the bottom of this post serve for summary.

It’s time for Catholic fiction. Having explained why I found Kristin Lavransdatter moving and Brideshead Revisited seriously amusing, I am now on the hunt for inspiring fiction written by Catholics. Any Catholic fiction will do, as long as it inspires, as long as it makes a man or woman say, “Yeah, a Catholic wrote that, and I’m proud to say I’m a Catholic too.”

Meanwhile, I’m going to settle down with a library copy of In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden, because two of you recommended it today.

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  • Regarding Rumer Godden: Grab Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy as well. I also like An Episode of Sparrows.

  • Oh dear, I'm afraid that I may have inadvertently discouraged you from reading C.S. Lewis, since was not Catholic. But maybe after you finish with some of the recommended Catholic authors, you could give him a try; he was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature, which was thoroughly Catholic — as was, I would argue, his imagination. Do try "The Chronicles of Narnia," also the space trilogy, especially "That Hideous Strength."

  • jp

    Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory would be my suggestion.

  • Diary of a Country Priest by Bernanos is a beautiful story; anything by Tolkien, of course. Les Miserables by Hugo; The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald; Mariette in Ecstasy by Hansen; Father Elijah and others by O'BrienLike Laura R said, C. S. Lewis' imagination was 'Catholic' at heart. Other novels that struck me as profoundly Catholic in their themes though as far as I know, the authors aren't Catholic were Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

  • searavens

    Hey Will Duquette! I enjoy reading over your shoulder on A View From the Foothills — you certainly have a wide range of interests.I second the recommendations of "An Episode of Sparrows" and "The Lord of the Rings". Lovejoy Mason became one of my lifetime faves. And it's so much richer to read Tolkien now that I am a Catholic and wonder about Catholic things — it makes me grateful. As for other books that make me say with satisfaction "A Catholic wrote that! And I got to join his tribe!", then I would say Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin series (even though it's not particularly Catholic in any way)and Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair" because it's such a satisfying romance, and a technical marvel to me: he has flashbacks within flashbacks — how'd he do that?And I know you only asked about fiction but I was also very pleased to know more about Alec Guinness through his autobiographies "Blessings in Disguise" and "My Name Escapes Me". He and his wife seemed to have such a lovely old age, just days of Mass, reading, walking, painting, sometimes having friends over for lunch. Wouldn't that be nice?

  • Mary P.

    I read Christy, By Catherine Marshall, when I was in high school or college. I was so impressed by it that the name was used for my firstborn. Fortunately, that child was a girl! I reread it over the summer, so see why it impressed me about 3 decades ago. And I was amazed that of all the books I read, it was the only one which I remembered the last line. Perfectly. I confess that I have no idea if Catherine is Catholic! I suspect not. But it's a very spiritual, beautiful book.Love this topic! Thank you for posting!

  • EPG

    searaven wrote (in part)"As for other books that make me say with satisfaction "A Catholic wrote that! And I got to join his tribe!", then I would say Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin series (even though it's not particularly Catholic in any way"You know, I wouldn't have thought of it, but you may be on to something. O'Brian's books are not expressly Catholic, but Stephen Maturin is a Catholic (although he claims to be a Voltairian in the first novel). O'Brian almost certainly imagined Stephen as a kind of "alter-ego," and Stephen's Catholic (although not always entirely orthodox) sensibility is a substantial theme throughout the series.

  • Cathy B.

    And don't forget Flannery O'Connor! Look for The Library of America Edition of her Collected Works.

  • Here is a list on Amazon of Catholic fiction, although I have had it bookmarked for some time, it seems the author of the list has changed it; Kristin Lavransdatter used to be at the top and now it's not even listed. Enjoy!Karen

  • Yeah, Brede's a must! Can't wait to hear what you think of it.Though it isn't "Catholic" per se, I have found myself very moved by CS Lewis's Screwtape Letters too. It's one of the few books that I think I should probably read yearly.

  • Joe

    I'll second "The Power and the Glory." Greene didn't always live his faith, but he could write beautifully about it.

  • I think Tolkien's short story, "Leaf by Niggle" is the most perfect work of religious fiction ever. His "Silmarillion" is my favorite book ever, but I've noted, not for everyone. Lewis' space trilogy is really wonderful: you really shouldn't be too rigid about your Christian reading being just Catholic, I think. But what I most wanted to say is that Sigrid Undset's quartet "The Master of Hestviken," is better even than "Kristin Lavrensdatter." That's not the common opinion but it was Undset's opinion. I'm going to cull some advise from these other comments. Thank you.

  • Oh, yeah, and "Mr. Blue," by Myles Connolly. Highly recommended and very hard to find.

  • Ditto on Mr. Blue, my all time favorite; Diary of a Country Priest, The Power and the Glory, any anything by Flannery O'Connor. Did anyone mention The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky?Thanks for the Amazon list!

  • Webster Bull

    My friend Elizabeth adds "Island of the World" by Michael O'Brien

  • John Ahern

    Two suggestions to add to the list of Catholic novels: Alice McDermott, Charming Billy, depicting Irish Americans in lives quietly informed by faith, and Eugenio Corti, The Red Horse (Il cavallo rosso), showing genuine Italian Catholics, from Manzoni's Lombary , in the cauldron of Fascism, Nazism, Communism, World War II and after.

  • cathyf

    Can't let this go by without a mention of any of John Shea's stories. He is a storyteller, and theologian, and priest from Chicago. This is not exactly what you think of as "Catholic fiction" == more like the genre of Jesus' parables. Reading any of his stories is very good, but if you ever have the opportunity to hear him tell stories in person it is even better! I heard him long ago when I was in high school…If you are looking for a single collection, I would recommend Stories. (Search on "Stories John Shea" at amazon…)

  • Marie

    More suggestions:The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoWindswept House by Malachi MartinLord of the World by Robert Hugh BensonThe Cypresses Believe in God by Jose Ma. Gironella

  • Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell (St Luke)