Eric Hester

by Joanna Bogle
(Freedom Publishing/Gracewing, 2007, 112pp, $19.95. Available from Freedom Publishing)

If joy be a sure sign of true Catholicism, as it must be, then the truest Catholic is Joanna Bogle, as she surely is. This book radiates joy on every page, and the pages cover the year.

Those who know Joanna Bogle's weekly columns in The Catholic Times will know what to expect and they will have another treat. Quite simply, the book goes through the whole year and gives a background to the various feasts so that the feasts can be celebrated now in a practical way. The book is not antiquarian (though it contains much living history) and contains, for example, plenty of recipes which are, I am informed on the best of authority, that of my wife, accurate, easy to follow and producing of delicious food.

As Joanna announces, 'The books is unashamedly Christian' and yet it is in a climate she describes well where there is 'a widespread concern that marriages and families today seem fragile É and often Church spokesmen seem timid in the face of a public culture that is not merely indifferent to Christianity and its values but actively opposed to it.'

Well, Joanna is not timid. She is kind and full of fun but is a thorough-going Catholic with nothing of the milk-and-water about her.


Her joy in Catholicism is matched by her joy in the family: this is very much a family-centred book. She dedicates the book, by name, to four of her nieces and Joanna herself is like an auntie to the Catholic Church in England, just as the late Sir John Betjeman was described as the Teddy Bear to the nation. I know of no feminine equivalent in English to 'avuncular' but whatever it might be it would describe Joanna Bogle. Her blog is called 'Auntie Joanna writes'.

This is a book to be kept in the kitchen, the heart of the house, and it is a book that will gather stains on the cover as it is used in practical situations for cooking, making models or holding while conducting a game or reciting a rhyme. It would be worth buying just for some of its appendices - Christmas and Lenten quizzes, with answers, and a superb list of recommended books for children.

This book will make a wonderful Christmas present for Christians of any age. Since Joanna Bogle writes for the family, then this book is not age- limited: it would make a welcome present for children, or grandparents, or anyone in between. I should like to think that every Catholic family, and every Catholic school, would have at least one copy. One of our own copies will by the side of my practical wife in the kitchen and the other will be by my bed because, with everything else, the book makes an admirable bedside book.

Eric Hester is an English Catholic journalist.

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