Sunday, December 06, 2009

Books Read in December 2009 (8)

1. The Pale Horseman (Alfred the Great 2) by Bernard Cornwell

'When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.'— Revelation 6:7-8 NIV This is what the title alludes to but Cornwell never quotes it. His young Northumbrian warrior is in Wessex. He pretends to be a Viking raiding Cornwall when Alfred and the Danes have a truce. This brings down the wrath of Alfred and our hero only survives a trial by combat when the Danes destroy this contest by attacking again. Alfred loses his kingdom and hides in the Somerset levels from where he gathers an army which was to defeat the larger Danish army at a battle which was the pivotal one in the formation of England. Without victory at Ethandun in 878 we would now be speaking Danish. Our hero, wounded in the battled had been bereaved of an infant son, left the mother and lost his mistress in the battle. he fights for but does not respect pious Alfred. He is a pagan at heart like the Danes who raised him.

2. The Lords of the North (Alfred the Great 3) by Bernard Cornwell

Once again our pagan Northumbrian is fighting. He becomes a king maker, slave and victor conquering Durham with his Danish friend. Saxon still clashes with Dane in the north but Alfred has peace in Wessex with the Danish challenger now a Christian. This history continues as a conflict between religions as much as peoples. The author portrays Christianity as a superior magic manipulating relics like sorcery. This series has grown on me. Slight geographical criticism. When was Thirsk ever near a lake? The nearest, Gormire, is 10 miles or so distant.

3. Cry of the heart and Quest of the mind - Anees Zaka and Diane Coleman

This is subtitled, 'an analysis of Muslim and Christian women's search for Truth and Honour'. It is particularly suitable for any non-muslim woman considering marriage to a Muslim or for any Muslim woman also. There is detailed teaching on woman and man from the Bible and the Quran. The place of women in the two religions is contrasted. The Christian gospel is proclaimed. Many Muslim sources are cited to give a fair picture of the inferior status of women in Islamic societies.

4. The King's Son, Or, a Memoir of Billy Bray by Frederick W Bourne

Billy Bray was a drunkard 19th century Cornish tin miner. The book opens with his spectacular conversion. Billy was a man filled with the joy of his Lord. He shouted and danced praise to God. He was poor in this world but rich in spirituality. He preached, built chapels, visited and sick and had a gift for striking pithy words. His was a unique witness.

5. The Ghost by Robert Harris

I found this like a firework that did not go off. At first I was riveted watching the touch-paper burn but the end seemed to lack a proper bang. I see this as a fictional attack on Blair, a man reckoned to have a wife brighter than him though in this case the similarity with Cherie ends there.

6, Sword Song (Alfred the Great 4) by Bernard Cornwell

In the fourth of the series Alfred's reluctant warrior captures London from the Dane's and then rescues the king's daughter. Uhtred is still far from his ambition to take his home castle of Bamburgh from his usurping uncle. He is in Mercia, pagan servant of Christian king. I did not find this as gripping as the previous two volumes but I want to go on to the fifth.

7. The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill by Dominique Enright

A Christmas present for which I am grateful. It makes one laugh. It cheers one up. I may have read half the quotes before but there are new ones and new anecdotes. Great man. Great wit. Great mastery of the language.

8. Nevertheless 2008 by John Kirkby

This is an amazing story of a man who prospered in the financial services industry then was saddled with huge debts. This led to divorce then a second prosperous career in finance. Then he became a Christian, gave up his job and started Christians Against Poverty, a charity which has helped many people out of debt with many becoming Christians in the process. It is a story of remarkable faith, commitment and blessing. It is the story of a man with remarkable financial expertise and perseverance through trials and an organisation which has grown throughout the UK and to the Antipodes. However the story does raise questions. There is an evident strong reliance on words from the Lord, both Scripture texts and prophesies. I believe God has given us 66 books of His word to rely upon rather than direct impressions of what is relevant to our situation. The direct methods of appealing for funds are far from those of men like Mueller and Schaeffer who appealed to only the Lord for direct financial assistance. I am not saying direct appeals are wrong, but here they are abundant including forms in the book itself to enrol contributors. What I believe many Christians will be unhappy with is a preparedness to take unsecured loans at times and also lottery funding. The book is not terribly well written with so much being a diary of the charity's financial crises. However it is a story of a faith work which has been and is a blessing to many.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lars, we wouldn't be speaking Danish. Yorkshire, which was -settled- by the Danes, speaks English. The Danes would have only -ruled- Essex, Kent, Mercia, Sussex, and Wessex. Just as the Normans learned to speak English, so did the Danes.

Now, an interesting possibility would have been a united Scandinavian crown, running from Ingria to Vinland from Arctic Circle to Guernsey and Jersey. In which case we might still have regular verbs. Probably not, though.