The National Catholic Review

Books

  • September 22, 2014

    In his masterful novel In the Wolf’s Mouth, set in the waning days of World War II, the British novelist and poet Adam Foulds shuns the tropes of historical fiction to pare his story to its essence. You will not learn the military details of the battles fought in North Africa or Sicily. There are no cameo walk-ons by famous military leaders. Instead, through his plain, precise language, Foulds creates a powerful sense of intimacy with his characters as...

  • September 22, 2014

    In this erudite, thoughtful, carefully translated but sometimes turgid book, Fabrizio Amerini reviews Thomas Aquinas’s doctrine of the human fetus’s successive ensoulments, in order to “dialogue with the contemporary bioethical debate on abortion.” When, if ever, is a fetus developed enough to be regarded as a “human being” or “human person” with moral dignity, integral and perhaps inviolable rights?

  • September 22, 2014

    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Catholic intellectuals sought to reconcile their faith with questions posed by modernity that challenged the church’s understanding of the Bible, its history and its relationship with society. These efforts did not sit well with authorities in Rome, who viewed these intellectual endeavors as threatening the foundations of the Catholic faith. Their answer was the encyclical “Pascendi Dominici Gregis,” issued on Sept. 8...

  • September 15, 2014

    The rise of the Tea Party and ongoing Republican efforts to define their national platform make this an opportune time to explore the roots and contours of American conservatism. Drew Maciag’s Edmund Burke in America: The Contested Career of the Father of Modern Conservatism employs Burke to investigate wider themes in American political culture, arguing that Burke—unlike John Locke—is not important because of the substance of his ideas.

  • September 15, 2014

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 31, though not feeling well, was hard at work composing the opera “Don Giovanni” when he was asked to listen to a 16-year-old pianist from Bonn who had traveled to Vienna in the hope of studying with him. The teenager played a prepared song, then improvised at the keyboard. The improvisation impressed Mozart. “Watch out for that boy,” he told the people in the next room. “One day he will give the world something to talk about.” Four...

  • September 15, 2014

    Robert Bartlett titles and commences his magisterial work on saints and worshippers with a quote from St. Augustine’s City of God: “Why can the dead do such great things?” For 21st-century readers, living in a time in which David Hume’s skeptical critique of miracles may speak more convincingly than does Augustine’s affirmatory exclamation, Bartlett’s study will be a fascinating and illuminating read. Even for some Catholics, the practices and beliefs...

  • Sept. 1-8, 2014

    In August Poland commemorated the 70th anniversary of its uprising against the Nazi occupation. The heroic but hopeless 63-day struggle of the poorly armed Polish underground Home Army against the S.S. troops devastated Warsaw, killed thousands and fulfilled, at least temporarily, Hitler’s wish to erase the Polish capital from the face of the earth.

  • Sept. 1-8, 2014

    Anthony Doerr has previously published four books—one nonfiction, one novel and two story collections. His collection Memory Wall in particular helped him stand out from the crowds of writers; it was strange, magical and bold. He has won a number of awards, which is always partly a matter of luck, but he deserved them. His newest book, another novel, takes place primarily during World War II, the main characters a German boy and a blind French girl who...

  • Sept. 1-8, 2014

    To review a book about a publishing house seems a rather dreary assignment. Who but the most ardent bibliophiles care about print runs and author advances? Does it really matter what appeared in the fall catalogue of 1963? But when the publishing house is home to Nobel Prize-winners and Pulitzer darlings and run by a Guggenheim, well, then things get a little more interesting. Add to the mix a brilliant, Jesuit-educated editor who worked with Thomas Merton...

  • August 18-25, 2014

    These two books come from cultured and urbane Catholic professors of theology, one at Boston College (Imbelli) and the other at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, London (Bullivant). Neither needs to raise his voice to make his case effectively. Both are concerned, albeit in different ways, to contribute to the new evangelization of post-Christians or “resting” Christians in the North Atlantic world. Their writing draws energy from the radiant vision of the...