Novel Thoughts blog

A newly discovered author and possible new books for a rainy day . . .

January 15, 2015 12:43 pm | 1 Comment

Cover for Shadows and ImagesI recently read a novel by an author I knew nothing about: Shadows and Images by Meriol Trevor.

Meriol Trevor lived from 1919–2000. She was educated at St. Hugh’s College in Oxford. It turns out that she was one of the most prolific Catholic writers of the twentieth century, writing more than thirty novels, for both adults and children, and several major biographies! She is best known for her comprehensive biography of Cardinal John Henry Newman published in the early sixties. In 1967, she was elected a fellow of the Royal Society for Literature in England.

I greatly enjoyed her book Shadows and Images, about the beloved Saint John Henry Newman. Like Louis de Wohl, Meriol Trevor weaves fictional characters into the historical facts of the saint’s life, enriching the story and showing the reader how the life of a holy person affects those around him or her.

In Shadows and Images, the fictional characters are Clem and Augustine, a charming married couple who journey through life influenced by their friend John Henry Newman. The book tells the story of their courtship, coinciding with Newman’s involvement with the “Oxford Movement” and his conversion to the Catholic faith. The story shows how this holy, humble man influenced their life, eventually leading to Clem’s own conversion to the Catholic faith.

One of my favorite passages from Shadows and Images is at the end when Clem reflects on Newman’s life as he nears death. I did not realize until I read this book how much of Newman’s work remained hidden and seemingly unsuccessful in his life. As Trevor writes,

All through his life he had been called to give up what was dearest to him, and sometimes it had been very hard to see why, when the thing itself was good and necessary and could be done by no one else. It had been an invisible struggle, and the wounds always unseen. To accept defeat after defeat had always hurt, had sometimes been an agony; not to fight back in the wrong way always a difficulty to a courageous and sensitive spirit; and yet he had endured it, and come through without bitterness.

I think Newman’s very human struggles, humiliations, and seeming failures make him a saint that the “average person” can relate to, learn from, and imitate during the trials of life. Shadows and Images would make a great read for a Catholic book club and it even has a book club guide.

After reading Shadows and Images, I looked up Meriol Trevor’s other books. I found out that she wrote some love stories/historical fiction books that look interesting, and I am going to check them out soon. I love books such as Pride and Prejudice, and I am hoping Trevor’s novels are similar. I am wondering if any of our readers have read any other books by Meriol Trevor, and if so what do you think? Any recommendations? I am always looking for good new books for a rainy day!

Rose Trabbic

Rose Trabbic

Rose Trabbic is the Publicist at Ignatius Press. She works from home and lives in southwest Florida with her husband, Joseph, and their three young children.

Tags: Europe historical fiction Jane Austen John Henry Newman Louis de Wohl love Meriol Trevor Oxford Movement Regency novels

1 Comment

  1. January 20, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I am far from the first to say that Meriol Trevor, novelist and Newman biographer, is one of the most unsung and under-appreciated novelists of twentieth century England. I had the good fortune to correspond with her concerning her Newman work a year or so before her death. I never had the pleasure of meeting her personally, but was thrilled when a letter arrived. Her observation that Christianity “always does much better in adversity than it does when people are comfortable and settled” deserves to be an inspiration to all writers on the Catholic scene, no matter how much their views may diverge. This thought (quoted by Leonie Caldecott, in her preface to the Ignatius Press edition of Shadows and Images) is of course inspired by Newman’s life in the chaotic Catholic world of nineteenth century England, with among other things its internal strife over Vatican I and the issue of papal infallibility, still broadly misunderstood today.

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