Holy Fire! Travels in the Holy Land
Orpington Press £7.99
£7.20 (Use code CT643)
JILL DUDLEY keeps her readers on their toes. In a series of
sparkling and, at times, catty anecdotes, she exposes the
shortcomings of her experiences and fellow travellers on a trip to
the Holy Land. So we have the morose canon who leads the group; his
wife with her bulk, her "dragon-like" expression, and sweet smiles;
the dotty Irish girl with her Roman Catholic certainties; the WI
matron; and even her own poor benighted husband, who suffers from
simple unquestioning faith -oh, and lumbago.
I wonder how the other pilgrims might have described her, as
they saw the sights at Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Caesarea, Masada,
Jericho, and Qumran together. "A know-all" could be one answer.
After all, she prepared for her trip by reading prodigiously. She
quotes from sources as varied as The Iliad and The
Golden Bough. There are 45 - mainly historical - titles in her
bibliography, and she provides a 15-page glossary extending from
Abraham to Zeus. All good stuff, indicating the author's desire to
bring a fresh, agnostic perspective to her narrative.
But she sets herself a difficult task: how to appraise without
poking fun? How to join in without patronising? To communicate
without being in communion? Her answer is to employ a kind of
wilful irony, but she reaches a seriously weak conclusion: that all
religious ills could be cured by getting rid of the Bible.
Strangely, this book might have been saved had she engaged in
some serious theological and biblical study. It is well
intentioned, but I wanted something more forensic and dispassionate
from our agnostic pilgrim.
Lavinia Byrne is a writer and broadcaster.