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Book Corner March 2012


Coral Glynn

by Peter Cameron New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2012


Reviewed by Dr. Susan K. Hedahl            

Several years ago I read a book by Max Thurian, Swiss Reformed theologian (later a Catholic priest) and co-founder of the Taize Community. The book was entitled Confession. What impressed me about the work was not only the author's insights into the priest's role in hearing confessions, but the values which informed the entire work: discretion; privacy, respect, the mystery of the human being and perpetual verbal and emotional restraint in the service of love and loving.

This prologue about another book underscores my sense of the similar fashion in which author Peter Cameron's recent novel, Coral Glynn, also writes of the interrelated lives of a small group of people. He explores their actions and possible motives with the same priestly care and restraint which Thurian exhibited. Set in England after WWII in the 1950s, a young woman acts as a nurse to a dying woman and is drawn into a relationship with her older son. Another group of characters around this group composes the supporting story of this core group.

In our current tell-all age, ruptured by constant violations of civil, personal and spiritual rights and the voyeurism of various contemporary media forms, Cameron's book moves noticeably more thoughtfully and slowly. He rarely explains – except through his characters' own interpretations – but describes scenes, actions, human love and pain with such deftness that the reader gradually realizes these conceal far deeper stories. The stories may or may not be revealed.

Cameron writes with superlative clarity and simultaneously honors the hidddenness of human life that unfolds at its own pace. This work moves with a special grace. It reflects with authorial humor and love the ways people succeed – or fail – in sorting out their always complicated lives.