Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Review: Sun Slower, Sun Faster by Meriol Trevor (1957)

Just after World War II, Cecilia (called Cecil) is sent to stay with her uncle and cousin, Rick in an old historic house near Bristol. While there, the two children are left mostly in the care of Rick's tutor, Dominic, with whom they have many unexpected trips through time. On each journey to the past, the characters find themselves dressed in period clothes and accepted as distant relatives of the people they meet, all of whom are dealing in some way with an event in the history of the Catholic church in England. As they spend more and more time in the past, all three characters begin to realize the truth of the faith and, in the present day, begin to seek their conversions.

Catholics are so rarely treated fairly - or portrayed accurately - in fiction. To find a book like this one, which is written expressly for and about young Catholics is such a treat, and I enjoyed every moment of the story. The understanding that the truth of Catholicism can be found by studying history resonated with me very strongly, as did the many beautiful descriptions of the Mass and the Church that appear throughout the story. Particularly moving for me is this passage, describing Cecil's first time witnessing a congregation receiving Holy Communion:

Then a movement began among the people. They creaked to their feet, shuffled and fumbled up to the front, kneeling on the floor, and she saw little Thomas at the beginning of the row. The priest turned and made the sign of the cross and all signed themselves; then he came forward and moved along the line, placing the Hosts in the mouths of the people. 

Cecil had a very strange feeling; she felt that this was at the same time the most natural and the most unnatural thing she had ever seen. They were like little birds being fed by their mother, and yet it was grown people who knelt to receive what looked like a paper penny of bread on their tongues. She knew at once why the Mass provoked such love and such hate. Either what they believe is true, or else it is a dreadful delusion, she thought.

These two paragraphs are so brief, and yet they speak volumes about the Church itself, and about the way the faith slowly becomes meaningful to Cecil, who has otherwise been raised as a Protestant. The writing throughout the book shares this same beauty of language and bluntness of message, which is precisely what I loved most about it.

For non-believers, this book is likely to seem strange, or maybe even boring. It's very much a book for Catholics, or for those considering a conversion, and happily, it does not try to hide its agenda or make the historical aspects more appealing to a general audience by downplaying the faith. It is a perfect book for Catholic high school students studying Church history, as it personalizes historical events and makes them accessible to contemporary readers. It would also make a wonderful gift for anyone going through RCIA, as it explains many of the Church's beliefs and affirms the decision to convert. 

Along with Flannery O'Connor, Meriol Trevor is quickly becoming my favorite Catholic writer.

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