Stories of striving. From women in church, to abductions in Uganda and the politics of food.
Women in Waiting: Prejudice at the Heart of the Church
(Bloomsbury, 224pp, £12.99)
Twenty years after the first female priests were ordained in the Church of England, Women in Waiting tells the personal stories of 12 prominent women who have each experienced the clash between their gender and their church.
Women bishops are a hot topic, but author Julia Ogilvy wisely avoids a narrow focus on this one aspect of the tension between gender and faith. In fact, the book is much richer for the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives brought by the women she interviews: lay and ordained, lawyers and academics, American, Scottish and Catholic, as well as Church of England figures.
Some share with great openness their deeply painful experiences of being mistreated by those who opposed their roles, like the Rev Lucy Winkett, who found herself in the media spotlight as the first female canon of St Paul’s Cathedral.
There is at times a clear sense of anger as the interviews explore the wider implications of women’s treatment by the Church, especially when it comes to issues such as sexual violence, education or cultural attitudes.
Ogilvy is a trustee of aid agency Tearfund, and – along with Elaine Storkey, Jane Williams and others – brings social justice into the heart of the conversation.
Yet despite the obvious strength of feeling, this is not a book of extended rants, finger-pointing or exercises in self-pity. Instead, it is filled with mature, hopeful reflections, marked out by grace rather than bitterness.
While the near-verbatim reporting of the monologues can seem a little grating in places, even this is a strength as much as it is a foible. It is a reminder that these are authentic voices, all the more powerful in their raw state, of women who have an extraordinary amount to offer the churches they love and serve.
(4th Estate, 400pp, £16.99)
Susan Minot’s latest novel is based on the real-life abduction of a group of schoolgirls by Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.
The girls’ suffering is expressed through Esther – held captive, raped and forced to kill by the brutal rebels.
Her story, intertwined with that of an American journalist reporting on the abductions, gives a raw account of the torture endured by northern Ugandans at the hands of the LRA.
I Spend, Therefore I Am: the True Cost of Economics
(Viking, 272pp, £16.99)
Economics has invaded the most personal aspects of our lives, corroding our relationships and guiding our biggest decisions – from who to date to who should get a kidney transplant.
Even more disturbingly, it is changing who we are, turning us into efficiency-obsessed ‘economic man’.
That’s the grim assessment of Philip Roscoe and whether you buy it or not, he makes a powerful case that we need to change course.
Feeding Frenzy: The New Politics of Food
(Profile Books, 356pp, £8.99)
If we produce enough food to feed 9 billion people, why do so many go hungry? How can we reform an unjust food system in the face of climate change, the biofuel surge and an ever-growing global population?
This insightful book tests popular theories against the evidence and offers up solutions – some of which may surprise you. Humankind caused the problems we’re facing – can we overcome human nature to fix them?
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Book reviews from the winter/spring edition