Taylor Caldwell’s Grandmother and the Priests is not really a novel, but a a collection of short stories.
The stories are supposedly told by Roman Catholic priests who dined at the Leeds home of Rose Mary O’Driscoll Cullen.
Though an old woman and without morals, Rose Mary respected priests, made them welcome at fine dinners where, after wine and whiskey, they told stories.
Most of the stories are about poor priests in remote villages of the British Isles where roofs leak, fires are never warm enough, and hunger is a familiar occurrence.
Often the story is of a priest in his first parish, growing up fast as he struggles against loneliness, hardship, ignorance, and occasionally against domineering sisters who know how a parish ought to be run.
Grandmother and the Priests is a good book to put on the bedside table. Some of the stories will make you smile, others will make you tear up. All the stories are just long enough to combat insomnia, and just heartwarming enough to make you feel cozy until you feel drowsy.
Grandmother and the Priests
By Taylor Caldwell
1963 bestseller #6
My grade B-
Fleeing the Nazis as France collapsed, Franz Werfel took refuge in Lourdes. When he reached safety in America, he wrote a fictionalized biography of the peasant girl whose visions brought fame to Lourdes and sainthood to herself. That background is the most interesting part of The Song of Bernadette.
In 1858 Bernadette Soubirous, a dull-witted girl from the poorest strata of French society, is preparing for her first communion. While gathering firewood with some other girls, she sees a vision of a beautiful lady. The vision has scarcely faded before news gets around that the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette, though Bernadette says the lady never identified herself.
When a neighbor claims her son was miraculously healed by water from a spring Bernadette unearthed at the lady’s direction, church and state suspect Bernadette and her family are hatching some scheme to defraud the public.
The public, however, supports Bernadette.
Unable to disprove the healings or find any fraud, the Church hustles Bernadette into a convent where she spends the rest of her life.
Readers will find Bernadette as dull as did the 19th century clergy and politicos who interrogated her. Worse, they’ll find Werfel’s ponderous, page-long paragraphs a real bore.
The Song of Bernadette
Trans. Ludwig Lewisohn
Viking Press, 1942
1942 Bestseller #1
My Grade: C-