CanLit Challenge Book #2: Such is My Beloved by Morley Callaghan
Filed under: CanLit Challenge — Ibis at 6:17 pm on Friday, November 25, 2005

Book 2, Such is My Beloved (1934) – Morley Callaghan
From the back cover:
“One of the great novels of the 1930s, Such is My Beloved recounts the tragic story of two down-and-out prostitutes and the young priest who aspires to redeem their lives. The novel is at once a compassionate portrait of innocence and idealism and an emphatic condemnation of a society where the lines between good and evil are essentially blurred.
A richly textured exploration of love and sacrifice, of innocence and disillusionment, Such is My Beloved, is widely considered Callaghan’s finest novel.”

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Morley Callaghan

My thoughts:
As mentioned in my forum posts, I found Callaghan’s style to be similar to that of Hemingway, whose stories I’m currently listening to on CD. I’m reading Bleak House too, and the contemplation of charity is to the fore in that book as well. I’m sure this book would have been more controversial and certainly timely during the Depression when it was written. Isn’t Father Dowling doing what he’s supposed to be? And this is a scandal because he’s relating with prostitutes. Of course there is irony in the fact that Jesus was criticised in exactly the same way for doing the same thing. It’s interesting to see how little has changed with regard to how women go from being respectable to being prostitutes. It’s not like girls set out to have prostitution as a career, right? Only now, instead of having the option to get out of it if a job or assistance presents itself, many are further trapped by drug addiction. As for Father Dowling, how much of a fool is he? Was he kind of crazy to begin with? Certainly obsessive.

This book would be a good one for a bookclub. There’s lots of meat for discussion, both about the characters & their situations as well as social issues, then and now. Callaghan himself leaves it up to the reader to determine what the story means and how its lessons (if there are any) might be applied in real life. There are questions about the meaning of charity, about the role of institutions (the church, the powerful, the law, the social activists) in the desperation of and assistance towards the poor and dispossesed, about love (carnal, practical, idealistic, spiritual), about women in society…

The novel itself was straight-forward (short too) without anything extraneous–including exposition by the author. Just the facts, ma’am. I generally like a book with more curly-cues (Dickens, anyone?).

I can see why Morley Callaghan is considered such a good writer, and I’m looking forward to more.

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