The other book I tracked down (oh, the glories of Abe Books) I had actually misremembered. I went to a Catholic school and emptied the library there, which inevitably meant reading a large amount of christian inspirational literature, most of which is total gubbins- stories about how happy people are that Jesus put them in a wheelchair, or how they climbed Everest thanks to God (Bear Gryll’s otherwise excellent book is full of that kind of stuff).
I don’t want to offend, but the idea that God is busy helping posh blokes to the top of Everest, or helping Jennifer Lopez have hit records, whilst simultaneously killing 20,000 Liberian children a year from diarrhoea I find completely and utterly abhorrent in every way. Same as everyone who ever says, ‘well, everything happens for a reason’.
Anyway, rant over. I wanted to revisit one book that I thought was amazing at the time, about a woman and her sister who’d ended up in the concentration camps and had been saved by the power of prayer. In retrospect, assuming they were converted Jews, I was quite insulted by the idea that if you’d only accepted Jesus you’d have survived the holocaust.
Well, I was totally wrong. The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom, is a sadly under-read these days classic. Corrie and her family were protestant watchmakers in Haarlem, and when the Nazi invasion came they never blinked, hesitated or considered for a second closing their doors or turning away their jewish friends and colleagues. Corrie, an unmarried middle aged woman who lived in the house in which she had been born and by her own admission, had never done anything unusual or spectacular in her whole life, became the centre of a network of nazi resistance, funnelling jews to safe locations, and at one stage hiding 13 in their own tiny home. She was the one who stood up and said ‘no’. It’s an utterly astonishing, entirely humbling read. When she meets one of her guards at the very end, you want to shout and scream on her behalf. I’m so glad it was in my school library; it should be in every school library on earth.
ps quick update on reading Wallace ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’- when we got to the bit where Charlie gets the bar for his birthday, and it DOESN’T contain a golden ticket, Wallace’s eyes went wide as saucers. He Simply. Could. Not. Believe. It. He had literally been hanging over the book in joyous anticipation whilst Charlie opens the bar, a huge preparatory smile on his face, when Dahl pulls the rug out. The second time Dahl pulls the same thing, he was much cannier to it. Then the chapter where he finally DOES find the ticket- which comes to quite an abrupt end- Wall, normally a very amenable child, simply grabbed my hand and refused to let me close the book until I’d read on. He couldn’t wait. As Mr B pointed out, I’m having as much fun with this is as he is.