“Three Men in a Boat”

After I finished reading Emma Donoghue’s new novel Haven(August 23, 2022) I made the mistake of reading reviews of the book. That helped me know that I should recommend it to my readers with all due diligence. No it does not have a riveting plot. Yes it is about three monks in the 7th century, not a very elaborately costumed time for the men. No it is not simply an indictment of the Catholic Church, nor can it be reduced so tidily to any set meaning. No it is not a primer on “getting back to nature.”

Haven is a meditation on vision, authority, discernment, obedience, and community. I am still thinking about it some days later. Three men set out to establish a monastery on an empty rock off the coast of Ireland. The rock is the setting. The monks are the characters. Any contemplation is the reader’s job. I take to contemplation easily, so the book found in me an ideal reader. Most reviewers didn’t take to it.

You know yourself best. Let me know if you do read it and what you think about it. Thanks.

14 thoughts on ““Three Men in a Boat”

  1. Thank you for telling about the book, Three Men in a Boat. I am interested in finding a copy. Our book group just decided to read, Ben Hur, but a revised edition, by Carol Wallace. She might be the granddaughter of Lew Wallace, the original author. All of it is very interesting to me.

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  2. Elizabeth, when I saw the title of this post I assumed you were referring to the book called ‘Three Men in a Boat’ by Jerome K Jerome. Which I do like! Now of course, I realise where the post’s title comes from and yes, you are absolutely right in thinking I would like this book. The points you make here are powerful and address aspects of certain books which are often missed if one is primarily looking simply for a plot, a story. I already have a copy here, waiting.

    In return, coincidentally, I have just finished reading a book set in Ireland which garnered similar readers’ reviews, although it made its way onto various longlists for prizes and rightly so in my opinion. I thought it exquisite. ‘Small Things Like These’ by Claire Keegan is a very short book, scarcely a novella really, and very simply written, which I felt added to its power (and showed the skill of the writer). The Magdalene Laundries – institutions run by the Catholic Church as you no doubt know – are central to the book but it’s not specifically about them, it’s so much more. It may not be for you but it may make an ideal partner to Haven. On that basis, I think I’ll read Haven soon.

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    1. I have found that it is at a nearby library. I will get it and let you know how it goes. So few fiction writers interest me any more, as I have previously commented. I am looking forward to the new Elizabeth Strout book.

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