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Therese of Lisieux [Paperback]

Monica Furlong
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

19 Mar 2001
A distinguished biography of Therese of Lisieux, stripping away layers of sentimentality to reveal a startlingly unfamiliar and surprising Therese: no less attractive, and even more extraordinary.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Darton,Longman & Todd Ltd; New edition edition (19 Mar 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0232524181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0232524185
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 750,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
As we begin to ask these questions we find ourselves also asking hard questions of the Christian religion, of its interpretations of its basic doctrines, of its attitudes to women and the way these shaped European culture and affected women like Therese. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different sort of saint 25 Aug 2010
I looked up this book on Amazon in the hope that somebody else would have reviewed it, because I wanted to see what they thought. Unfortunately, I seem to be the first.
I've read this little book so often that the ink is wearing thin where I've held the pages. I've been fascinated by Therese for many years, since I read her autobiography. In many ways I used to dislike her intensely. People say she's syrupy. Although I can see how one might think that of her, that isn't really what I dislike about her. To me she just seems the most awful prig, and her autobiography uses a certain sort of language, redolent of the particular kind of Catholic piety that seemed to come out of the time in which she lived, which I find massively off-putting. Somehow she's life-denying - awful. Lots of pious books have been written about her, and many of those are pretty revolting as well.
Monica Furlong, on the other hand, has written something quite different. For one thing, I don't think she's a Catholic, and that helps, because she isn't in the business of writing a hagiography. She paints a warts-and-all picture (and what a relief that is!).
Therese came from a strange middle-class French family of extreme piety. Her mother wanted to be a nun, her father wanted to be a monk, and when they both failed in these ambitions they decided to have children who, they hoped, would be religious in their stead. They had five girls who survived childhood, of whom Therese was the youngest. They all became nuns eventually, with Therese entering Carmel at 15. She is usually portrayed as a sweet, obedient, selfless child.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.4 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The human, not so much the saint 28 July 2001
By Amazon Customer - Published on
The author explains how she was attracted to this life because she too was the youngest daughter in her family and identified with Therese Martin. She describes in a somewhat dispassionate way the unusual (even among contemporaries) home life of Therese's family, and is at pains to separate the facts from the interpretation which Therese's own book _Story of a Soul_ would sometimes put on it. The author is clearly very sympathetic with the situation in life that Therese was in, but stays clear of hero worship when detailing the very remarkable facts of life and subsequent canonization. The portion of the book describing Therese's final agonizing illness are truly harrowing, with a measure of outrage at how she was allowed to suffer to a degree which was quite unneccessary. As she quotes only very sparingly from _Story of a Soul_ it should not be considered to be a replacement for that work.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly reductionist 28 Feb 2007
By Selby Coffman - Published on
This book reduces most of Therese's life to neurotic personality traits and oppressive family and social systems. The author has relentless pyschological theorizing and heavy-handed commentaries on every page.

Though feminism and social psychology have much to offer, this book is barely sympathetic to the spiritual life per se and shows almost no understanding of the movements of faith in a person's life. Reading this, one could never imagine how the saint's life could have inspired millions.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Au contraire mes amies! 18 Oct 2002
By A Customer - Published on
I found this book to be a refreshing change from the sentimental glop usually found in biographies of St. Therese. I was glad that Ms. Furlong interpreted Therese's life in light of
contemporary psychology. For instance, Therese's severe childhood illness almost certainly had its roots in the fact that she had yet again lost a mother figure when her older sister entered the convent. (She had previously lost two mother figures.)
The fact that Therese showed such maturity, strength of character and a will of iron during her brief adult life, despite her sad childhood is testament to her courage.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a worthwhile re-examination... 16 Jun 2003
By santera - Published on
I am a big fan of Therese Martin, and I've read a number of her biographies, as well as her autobiography, though I don't know if I've read the original. Why? Because her writings were heavily edited by her sisters, as her photographs were retouched. Ms. Furlong's biography avoids many of these pitfalls. I found her approach refreshing. She describes the pietism of Therese's family, the unhealthy conditions in her convent,the personalities of her sisters and fellow nuns, the abusive observance of the Carmelite rule, her irrational mother superior, and the opportunistic way her biological sisters helped engineer her early recognition as a saint. All of this does not detract from Therese's psychological maturity and contributions to modern Catholic thought. So much about her life is known through letters and memoirs, as well as the testimonies at her canonization. It would be a good thing if a modern first-class biographer were to get access to all of these materials in order to write a modern biography of Therese, her life and times. Penguin is publishing a new biography of Therese this year, which may be just the thing.
5.0 out of 5 stars Therese seen from within her family system 10 May 2013
By Judith Best - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This biography comes out of a psychological perspective that helps me understand how Therese took her familiy of origin and transformed her DNA into a well-integrated human being. I think the real Therese shines forth in Monica Furlong's book.
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