#26: The Silver Chalice by Thomas Costain. This is our July book club book, and is one of the books in the Loyola Classics series. It is the story of Basil, a young boy sold by his parents to a rich man, Ignatius, who has no son of his own. At Ignatius' death, Basil is sold into slavery by Ignatius' usurping brother. Basil becomes a talented silversmith--a real artist. He is ransomed one night by Luke the Physician, and Basil's task is to make a silver reliquary/chalice to hold the cup used by Christ at the last supper. Basil lives with Joseph of Arimethea, the financial supporter of the infant Church. A sweeping epic, of the old-fashioned kind-we follow Basil and his interactions with Nero, Simon the Magician, Paul, Peter, John and Jude. I loved it. It was the perfect summertime book, with lots of pages--love, treachery, passion and religion.
#27: Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini. The story of Peter Blood--an Irish doctor convicted unfairly of treason and sent as a slave to Barbados. We follow his escape and life as a buccaneer, all the while carrying a torch for Arabella, the niece of the cruel planter who purchased him. A swashbuckling story, even better than Scaramouche, which was pretty darn good! Arrrrrgggggh, mateys!
#28: The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor. A story of the Irish Catholics in an unnamed northeastern city (Boston?), in particular the Carmody family, told by priest/friend/narrator Fr. Hugh Kennedy. Fr. Hugh is a recovering alcoholic, working in a run-down "edge of the slums" parish in his hometown. His life becomes intertwined with the Carmody family again--the Carmody son, John, is also a priest and was one of Fr. Hugh's best friends. This isn't a story of something that HAPPENS, it's a story of how people ARE. Those of you who like plot-driven fiction would be disappointed with this one. But its understanding of people is sometimes quite breathtaking. Parts of it are absolutely hilarious, and parts are quite sad. The book won the Puliter Prize in 1962. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
At one point, Fr. Hugh is talking to one of the Carmody family about what people said about him at his old parish after he was sent away for treatment for his alcoholism. Helen Carmody tells him that people did talk, that they felt "let down." Fr. Hugh thinks:
Which was kind enough, surely--and also not quite true. For this gentle disappointment, this simple, sorrowful feeling of being "let down" might possibly have been the main reaction of a community of saints, but the people of Saint Raymond's and Saint Stephen's were . . . well, quite simply, they were human beings. And it wasn't at all hard to imagine the medley of whispers, pitying little nods, sardonic winks, outraged perorations, snickers, and small jokes that came up inevitably when groups got together--just as it was no harder to picture, on another age level, the schoolboy, safely out of sight of monitoring eyes, mimicking for his admiring friends the evening gait of his former pastor. All this and much more took place: I was sure of it. And it took place, not because the people were cruel or vindictive or vicious, but because the capacity for just this kind of thing is so much a part of all of us--and the great mistake, I think, the mistake that surely leads to more misery, is for the victim to succumb to the mornal temptation and take the part for the whole. For there is a balance here: the great majority of those who winked and nudged and raved and joked would, in the very next moment, have willingly given me whatever lift they could, and the same schoolboy who staggered with such derisive exactness would in an instant have given up his free morning to serve my Mass and drive me halfway across the state and back. We all share in a shattering duality--and by this I don't mean that soggy, superficial split that one so often sees: the kind of thing, for example, where the gangster sobs uncontrollably at an old Shirley Temple movie. I mean the fundamental schism that Newman referred to when he spoke of man being forever involved in the consequnces of some "terrible, aboriginal calamity"; every day in every man there is this warfare of parts. And while all this results in meanness and bitterness and savagery enough, God knows, and while only a fool can look around him and smile serenely in unwatered optimism, nevertheless, the wonder of it all is to me the frequency with which kindness, the essential goodness of man does break through, and as one who has received his full measure of that goodness, I can say that for me, at least, it is in the long succession of these small, redemptive instants, just as much as in the magnificence of heores, that the meaning and the glory of man is revealed.....