Lent Course

Lent Book Club 2019

Tell us what you thought of the Lent Book Club meetings 2019


The ministry team would love to hear your comments on the Lent Book Club that we ran for the first time this year.  Please take a few moments to tell us your views and suggestions and we will use these to plan next year’s Lent Book Club.

Please send your comments to pam.davey@all-saints-ascot.org  or leave a note at back of church addressed to Pam Davey



Lent Book Club 2019

The All Saints’ Lent Book Club met for three weeks to discuss The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. In the fourth week we were invited to bring a book of our own that had helped to develop our faith and to give a short summary of it to the group.


Here are summaries of some of the books discussed:

 The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis,  (published in 1945)

This is a short read as we follow the narrator who guides us through a number of events on a magical bus ride in a dismal, grey town that represents Hell.  The narrator’s fellow travel companions are a varied bunch of people who are on holiday visiting places outside Hell.  Some visit Earth, whilst others take the bus to the outer banks of Heaven.  We meet an interesting and varied group of people who are all, individually, offered the choice of staying in Hell or leaving.  What do they decide to do? .... You’ll have to read the book to find out.


 The Road by Cormac McCarthy, (published in 2006)                                                                                          

This is a challenging, disturbing novel, set in a post-apocalyptic future. The world is dead, grey with ash, a landscape crossed by the two main characters, a man and his young son. They are “each other’s world entire”. As they journey on, they cling to one other and to their faith in “the fire”, a faith that all will be well.                                      The reader is shocked by brutal acts of cannibalism, yet mesmerised by the poetry of the descriptions and the emphasis on the redemptive power of love. For a novel about death and decay, it is surprisingly hopeful and full of light.  A strong stomach required.


Gilead  by Marilynne Robinson, (published in 2004)

The author of Gilead is female who writes in the voice of the Reverend John Ames (76yrs) in the form of a letter to his young son in order to give him a sense of his deep family history as he fears he will no longer be around to tell him all this when his son grows up.  His writings reveal a great deal about his pursuit of integrity in his religious life and personal relationships, especially his love for his younger wife and 6-year-old son.  His stories are what he wants to pass on to his young son:  illustrations of his life-knowledge & experience, his character and his vulnerabilities.  Although John Ames is in the latter stages of his life, he has a wonderfully positive outlook and even in times of hardship and privation he is able to appreciate the joy and beauty of God’s creation.

Gilead is a joyful, uplifting novel. This is not a plot-driven action tale but one that has been described as meditative and melancholic with its reflections on the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the meaning of life.

Barack Obama, in an interview in 2015 said that his favourite fictional character is Revd John Ames the narrator; Obama said: ‘I fell in love with the character and fell in love with the book’.


A Street Cat named Bob by James Bowen, (published in 2012), is a wonderful true story about a street cat named Bob and his owner, a homeless recovering heroin addict and busker on the streets of London. It is a heart-warming tale which tells two stories: one of hope, on how a street cat saved a street man and both still live happily even now and a second story of our today society prejudice and discrimination towards homeless people and their struggle to live a normal life. Bob’s owner said that when you live on the streets you are treated as a non-person. However when he had his cat, he became humanized again as people’s attitudes softened towards him. He described how he had felt like he had been a non-person and was becoming a person again.  Lent is a time to reflect on our prejudiced ideas about the world, revise our attitude towards the others and to try to think freely of any society dogma, as God created all of us equal and loves all equally.


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, ( published in 1960)                         

This is one of those novels we come across in our youth or remember from the film with Gregory Peck. It is well worth reading (again) right now.  Full of humour and insight into the complications of growing-up, we experience life in the 1930’s in small-town Maycomb. We see events through the eyes of Scout, a tom-boy whose idea of showing affection for a friend is to beat him up. The focus of the novel sharpens when Scout’s lawyer father, Atticus, is asked to defend a black man, charged with the rape of a white woman.            

The struggle for justice (not sugar-coated) and the effect this has on a town steeped in prejudice and hypocrisy are issues as current now as they were in the 60’s when the novel was written. You’ll laugh out loud, cry at the injustice of it all and appreciate why this book has become a modern classic


The Dwelling of the Light: Praying with Icons of Christ, by Rowan Williams (published in 2003)

This is a short book that focuses on four icons: the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, the Hospitality of Abraham and the Pantocrator.   The former Archbishop of Canterbury provides helpful historical information on the development of icons, emphasizing that the use of icons is not some kind of worship of images. It is about using icons as a way to look patiently and prayerfully, to ‘allow yourself to be looked at by God’, rather than just looking to analyse and explain.  This book is a gentle guide through prayerful reflection and meditation as you allow yourself to dwell in the light of Christ.


Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche, (published in 1886) who accuses past philosophers of lacking critical sense and blindly accepting dogmatic premises in their consideration of morality. Specifically, Nietzsche accuses them of founding grand metaphysical systems upon the faith that the good man is the opposite of the evil man, rather than just a different expression of the same basic impulses that find more direct expression in the evil man. The work moves into the realm "beyond good and evil” in the sense of leaving behind the traditional morality to a destructive critique in favour of what he regards as an affirmative approach that fearlessly confronts the nature of knowledge and the perilous condition of the modern individual.


Till We Have faces by C. S. Lewis,   (published in 1956)

This is a re-telling of the ancient Greek myth of Cupid (Eros) and Psyche from the viewpoint of Orual who was Psyche’s older sister.  C. S Lewis considered this to be his best and most accomplished work.

In the re-telling of the myth, Lewis writes a modern story about love, the will, the soul and the relationship between them. Orual’s view helps us to see what happens when love is twisted or damaged. As Orual gradually understands her own personality flaws we can recognise some of these in ourselves.  By the end, Orual learns that we cannot meet the gods face to face until we ourselves have faces.


The Humans by Matt Haig (published in 2013

The Humans is a funny, compulsively readable novel about alien abduction, mathematics, and that most interesting subject of all: ourselves.
Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man--as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son--who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew--the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth.   


A Staircase in Surrey: a sequence of five novels by J. I. M Stewart (published 1974-1978)

This is a sequence of five novels by Scottish novelist and academic J. I. M. Stewart (1906–1994), and published between 1974 and 1978. The title refers to student accommodation in an imaginary Oxford college. The character of the provost of the college is said to have been based on that of Henry Chadwick, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford during Stewart's own time there.


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