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on 25 January 2013
I have read this book on Kindle, which is something new to me. I read the free summary on Kindle and felt drawn to read all as it reminded me of my short visit to Iona. In the moment of enthusiasm it is all too easy, with Kindle,to buy without reminding oneself of the cost. At least buying on Amazon website you have a couple of 'gating' mechanism before you press purchase. The book is expensive and the photographs are not well defined on the Kindle version. If I had taken more time about it I would have preferred to borrow it from my local library. Having said this, Clare Cooper Marcus's writing is a wonderful example of descriptive storytelling, capable of stimulating the readers imaginative processes. For example, I found her detail of the various places that she walked to on Iona, plus the off island views, immediately took me back to my own experiences of Iona, memories greatly tinged with affection, even walking in the rain and cold. Her storytelling is a pleasure to read and I greatly appreciated the quotations that headed each new chapter indicating the theme for the chapter. She also mentions other books which were interesting to follow up. Biographical detail, of her early life, during the second World War illustrated, well, the experience of having to leave her home to live in place less likely to be threatened by war. She admits to the biases, that arose at the time, towards the place and people who provided the safe place, i.e on the land of a wealthy estate. The book moves from the childhood, war time experiences to her adult success as a recently retired academic, in California, detailing the journey of cancer and its treatment. I found the book interesting and inspiring but also too long. Some of the childhood and early family reflections I found too repetitive and boring and so I push through these parts longing for more of her thoughts on wider personal issues and her spiritual journey.
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on 9 August 2015
Amazon review of Clare Cooper Marcus, Iona Dreaming: The Healing Power of Place. (Niclas Hays, 2010)

Unable, on a rational level, to explain her ‘powerful attraction’ to the island of Iona, Clare nevertheless travels from her home in Berkeley, California, to the remote Scottish Hebridean island with the intention of finding a place where she can also find words for a clutch of painful memories. Iona Dreaming is the result of both her geographical and psychological journey.
Peppered with ordinary detail — ‘I stand up. My legs feel stiff. Time to go home for tea. I bought some bannock bread this morning at the Spar shop near the ferry landing. I am anxious to taste it,’ — Clare thus supplies a necessary earthing to a narrative whose subject matter is, at times, a challenging one.
‘What am I doing here?’ is the question which undercuts her description of her days on the island. A question both philosophical and open-ended. ‘Experiences, feelings, memories, jostle for place in my attention,’ writes Clare in the early days of her projected six months stay on Iona. As a published author and academic, Clare is experienced in acknowledging the useful and refusing space to irrelevant detail. She thus skilfully sifts through the swirling impressions carried in her consciousness and arrives at the crucial rub of them. Through the dark pathway of change, loss and illness, Clare speaks of her deep sense of physical and mental vulnerability which all who read Iona Dreaming will applaud and many will relate to.
The island of Iona has functioned from the sixth century as a place where the Paulian advice of seeking the ‘peace which passeth understanding’ might be found. Citing the Greek belief in ‘the daimon’ — which Clare explains as ‘an invisible, indefinable essence that carries our soul’s purpose’ —Clare wonders if her own daimon ‘has drawn me to Iona. I need to meet it, confront it; I must hear what it is trying to tell me, even if, at times, I grow fearful of what I may learn.’
Iona Dreaming will therefore not only urge you to seek out and spend time on this island of ancient spirituality but will also encourage you to turn and face not only your own inner demons but also listen anew to your particular daimon. In that encounter you will, hopefully, as Clare did, find a new gratitude for every given experience.
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on 12 May 2013
This really is a fine book and deserves a wide readership. Beautifully written, it interweaves experiences on the island of Iona with the author's story of overcoming cancer and childhood experiences. It does not rush, but meanders along in a dreaming (but well structured) way, dealing with the material calmly and evenly. A must for those who yearn for a calmer, gentler life.
C.R.
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