By Caroline Jones, ABC Books, $35
THROUGH a Glass Darkly is the very moving chronicle of the eight weeks that led to the death of Caroline Jones’ deeply loved 93-year-old father, Brian Newman James, after heart surgery and of the seven years of intense personal grief that followed it.
It will be welcomed with gratitude by those who, with their faith tested, presently mourn the loss or face the imminent death of a family member and, more generally, by the host of appreciative readers who have come to know the author through her earlier writings.
I believe that great paintings have the power to change mere spectators into participants in the scenes depicted and that something similar may be said of the impact of great literary works.
It is not surprising, therefore, that I endorse Mal McKissock’s judgment in his foreword to the book: “Caroline brings her father to life in a way that allows the reader to get to know him intimately so that he becomes part of our story … Many people talk about significant experiences in their lives, but few take us into the experience with the degree of honesty, passion and vulnerability that Caroline expresses in her book”.
It was an excellent idea on the part of the author to intersperse entries from her journal with excerpts from her father’s own engagingly written reminiscences.
Without them “Part Two: Hospital Diary” would have made even more demanding reading and the text would have revealed the patient but not the person.
Another appealing feature of the book, already enhanced by the inclusion of a generous selection of family photographs, is the addition of a fairly lengthy appendix in which the writer’s well-qualified colleague Carmel Ross places the story “into a wider human context, identifying major themes she believes emerge strongly in it”.
Her sage remark that “the effects (of trauma of any kind) will not dissipate until the sufferer has the chance to tell their story” has special relevance to Through a Glass Darkly.
I warmly recommend this fine book to all readers of this brief review. It is a beautifully compassionate human testimony to a love between father and daughter that is stronger than death.