Silence by Shusaku Endo

silence

Originally published in 1966, then in translation in 1969, this book has gained recent popularity due to the release of the feature film of the same name.  This fictional account of the life of a Jesuit priest in 1640’s Japan is a story that depicts the battle between religious faith and doubt.  The “silence” of the title refers to God’s presumed silence to the suffering of the protagonist and those that by association are persecuted by Japanese authorities.  The conflict the protagonist faces is both internal and external.  The underlying irony of this story is twofold with the protagonist viewing his mission in Japan at first as truly righteous.  He does this even in the face of his former mentor and the Japanese authorities pointing out that he is an outsider presuming that he knows what is best for the Japanese by preaching about salvation and in doing so leading those that follow to persecution and death.  The other irony which is not overtly mentioned is that although the priest is condemning the Japanese for their persecution of Christians in Japan at the same time in Christian Europe heretics were being persecuted for not adhering to what was thought as the right form of Christianity.  Although this book is set in Medieval Japan it is not an overly historic work.  One learns more about this time period by reading Clavell’s Shogun in comparison; however this is not the point of the novel.  It is instead an internal religious discussion by the writer for readers to understand what it means to worship and have beliefs that are not shared by the majority and considered intrinsically foreign.  Silence by Shusaku Endo forces readers to confront how they may have given up their beliefs or ideals in order to conform and survive and get ahead in society. (Submitted by Shane)

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The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

homeforunwantedgirlsI just finished reading The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman for my book club and it was a real page-turner. It’s a fictitious novel based on actual events that occurred in the early 1950’s in Quebec. At the time, many babies born out of wedlock were handed over to orphanages run by Catholic nuns. The province’s Premier of the time, Duplessis signed an order-in-council to turn orphanages into hospitals, thus allowing them to collect federal subsidies. As a result, many of the children in the orphanages were told that they were now mentally deficient, often kept drugged, and made to provide labour in support of the institutions. The children were not schooled, nor were they made available for adoption.

This story follows a 15 year old who finds herself pregnant as well as the story of the child she gives up to one of these orphanages turned hospitals. Mother and daughter never lose hope of reuniting while facing many challenges in their respective lives.

The novel was very well written and I believe it depicted the issues surrounding the times accurately. While it was sometimes difficult to read, it was also eye-opening and engaging. One of the few novels where I’ve shed tears while reading. I highly recommend it. (Submitted by Seline)

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