Sunday, December 11, 2016

My Favorite Book for 2016

Even though December is but half gone, I no longer expect to be surprised by a better book for 2016:

The Awakening of Miss Prim: A Novel
Fenollera, Natalia Sanmartin.
Atria Books. Kindle Edition. 

Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera is a journalist and novelist based in Madrid, Spain. She is Comment Editor of the Spanish economics and business daily newspaper Cinco Días. This is her debut novel; it was originally published in Spanish in 2011 as El despertar de la señorita Prim. It bears a Copyright © 2013 by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera in Spanish and for the English language translation copyright © 2014 by Sonia Soto.

My attention was drawn to the novel by a book review published by the son of John Senior, who lauds the book as accomplishing that which his father had so wanted to do, namely, in the art form of the novel to flesh out his world of ideas. Knowing both of John Senior's books and the legacy he has bequeathed to the world in numerous religious and priestly vocations from among his former university students and most appreciative of the beacon which is Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma, I cannot help but agree with Senior's son and thank God that Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera has so eminently succeeded at her task.

As far as new novelists go generally, I am a skeptic and have cast aside more than one from disappointment and delusion. This work however was such that I really did not want to put it down. Everything is right about it: narrative, landscape or visual descriptions, character studies. The food descriptions, especially of teas, desserts and hot chocolates may be a bit over the top, but perhaps only while I can't reconcile them with my diet! Perhaps it is a book more for women than men, but Natalie casts a benevolent eye in the direction of her men characters as well. Far from tedious, the book is genuinely profound and surpasses, if you will, John Senior, in bringing his ideas to life.

It would be wrong to see the book as a blue print for homeschooling, although discussion of the education of children and the recovery/promotion of Western culture are as central to her work as they were to John Senior's. I don't think that her focus on the awakening of a young woman to life and culture in all its wholesomeness is necessarily conditioned by any particular bias due to the fact, obviously, that Natalia is herself a woman. As notably G.K. Chesterton before her, so she has understood the primacy of women in nurturing or fostering human development or culture at its exquisite best. The novel is an uncompromising attack or critique, without a hint of harangue, against contemporary educational models and a vapid caricature of feminism, which deprive both sexes of their God-given glory and true dignity.

I know some thoughtful and truly admirable women to whom I would love to make a gift of this book, as well as no too few men, especially priests and bishops, who could benefit from a read.

They think that they regret the past, 
when they are but longing after the future. 
—John Henry Newman

Take and read!

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