REVIEWS OF PREVIOUS BOOKS:
Redeeming Mary: Insights from the Gospels (Burns & Oates, 1995):
'The Mary of whom Tina Beattie writes is intelligent, courageous and uncompromising, while remaining straightforward and unassuming, and I can think of no better way to describe her book. I was greatly in need of this book. I am sure there will be many others whose need is less, but who will still be inspired and moved by its lightness of touch and depth of meaning.' (Eibhlin Inglesby, review in Theology and Sexuality
'Recommended reading for everybody looking for understanding of the mystery.' (Amazon customer review)
The Last Supper According to Martha and Mary (Burns & Oates/Continuum, 2001):
'The contemporary novel allows writers the freedom to use psychological ideas and probabilities to thicken the plot, deepen the emotional authenticity, and engage the reader at other levels than the cerebral. This is Beattie's forte; she manages to bring alive a social dynamic for a large group of individuals, and to create subtle and intriguing balances, relationships and reactions - which genuinely do add a drive and plausibility to the outline plot that we all think we know. ... [T]his is a lovely book ... It is both bold and beautiful. And the last two pages are completely wonderful - theology and poetry and humanity met together.' (Sara Maitland, review in Theology and Sexuality)
God's Mother, Eve's Advocate (Continuum, 2002):
'Tina Beattie has written a stunning book on the 'theology of woman' ... It is hard to summarize the riches of this dense, rich, fruitcake of a book. (Janet Soskice, review in Theology and Sexuality)
The New Atheists: The Twilight of Reason and the War on Religion (Darton, Longman & Todd, 2007):
'Beattie's passionate survey of this complex scene entails a constant plea for mutual understanding and for an end to cheap point-scoring. She is a good guide and well worth reading.' (John Habgood, Times Literary Supplement)
'[This is] a smart, thoughtful and needed book that gets to the core of why the new atheists are not only self-deluded but ultimately dangerous.' (Chris Hedges, The Tablet)
'This is an excellent contribution to the debate over atheism. Tina Beattie brilliantly exposes the rhetorical bluffing of authors like Dawkins and Hitchens, highlighting their confused thinking, inaccurate manipulations of religious traditions and frequent self-contradiction. She is also refreshingly humble in her claims, not trying to prove God's existence - something that, in a sense, would undermine the very basis of religion, which is faith. She offers instead a God worth believing in, a God transcendent yet immediate and engaged with human beings. Her book is a gentle and generous counterblast to the rather ponderous and "not great" delusions that have caught the imaginations of certain bourgeois publics.' (Anthony Egan, The Heythrop Journal)
'Tina Beattie is a fresh and exhilarating new voice in the current debate on religion who challenges atheist and believer alike.' (Peter Stanford)
'Tina Beattie has a breadth of scholarship and reading that takes the breath away, and has a deep understanding of what is happening. A wonderful read. ' (Amazon customer review)
New Catholic Feminism: Theology and Theory (Routledge, 2006):
[A] book that is spectacularly interesting, though not an easy read. Expect to grapple with Thomas Aquinas and Hans Urs von Balthasar, as well as Julia Kristeva, Charlene Spretnak, and Sarah Boss.' (Review in The Church Times)
She is my kind of woman, complete with red patent leather heels to present a kick-arse paper on Aquinas! ... I've taken months to digest this book, so a blog post is hardly going to do it justice: it would make a great core text for a masters unit on feminist theology! ... Beattie argues that '[w]hen psycholinguistics and neo-orthodox theology are brought into intimate dialogue with one another, the confusion which surrounds the place of the female body in Catholic symbolism and sacramentality begins to burn with a dark intensity. This illuminates an unexplored space - virgin territory perhaps - which is at one and the same time charged with the most profound and threatening irrationality, but also with a sacramental and sexual potency that might yet bring about the transformation of the Catholic vision.' (Chelle Trebilcock, reddresstheology blog)
Theology after Postmodernity: Divining the Void - a Lacanian Reading of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford University Press, 2013):
Tina Beattie is to be commended for this impressive work of serious scholarship which rereads Aquinas in the light of Lacanian theory. Other authors have already shown the influence of Thomas on Lacan but what is distinctive about this book is its seeking to bring Lacan and Aquinas into creative dialogue. ... This very well written book does not set out to explain and rationalize, but to tentatively reopen the theological imagination to mysteries beyond its ken. It is an impressive rereading of Thomas for our time, one that courageously takes the deliberately obtuse and at times inaccessible Lacan as its guide. ... Beattie is clearly on to something when she finds the later Lacan's shift from the symbolic to the real a rich resource for a renewed theology beyond our traditional language for God, a theology which is not rational only, but resonates with our deepest desires.' (Thomas Dalzell, Irish Theological Quarterly)
'On the basis of a gendered cosmology coming from Aristotle, but at key points influenced by Plato and Neoplatonists, Thomas strengthened an understanding of law, politics and Church order which at worst excluded women (from the universities, e.g.) or at best included them in a purely passive and receptive capacity (in the Church, in medieval romance, in romanticism). For Beattie, the seed of all this is the distinction between matter and form understood as feminine and masculine, passive and active ... Where others might finger Descartes, Duns Scotus, or "modernity" as the culprit in subverting some wonderful synthesis which the patristic and medieval periods supposedly constructed, Beattie shows, convincingly, that we must step much further back, implicitly agreeing with Anscombe's comment that Western thought is a series of footnotes to Parmenides rather than to Plato. (Vivian Boland, New Blackfriars)
'The new book by British Catholic feminist theologian Tina Beattie, bears witness to de Certeau's notion of the excess in history. The medieval theology she writes about is not a thirteenth-century trash heap that she attempts to remake into a simulacra of the original but a living theological inheritance by which she is claimed, one to which she is beholden but one that is lost to her even as it lives on in her faith. The book is a document of her own melancholic longing for its resurrection. ... Beattie's arguments about Thomas are unexpected, creative, and often beautiful. But the "shimmers" she finds in Thomas of a maternal Trinity and her version of his incarnationalism are, at least in her rendering, very faint. Rather than mourn him, Beattie offers this Lacanian representation of Thomas, one in which Thomas is deconstructed but never quite rebuilt, his resurrection never quite complete.' (Rachel J. Smith, Los Angeles Review of Books)
I'd never read anything with a priest as one of the main characters. To me, the story was unique. I liked the author's writing style. It hooked me into the book. I finished it in one sitting because I just couldn't wait to find out how it was gonna end.
The author wrote a thriller that started with a bang and just kept going! The twists kept coming, so I couldn't put it down. I cannot wait to read more from this author!
This is a fascinating book, which kept my interest to the final page and gave me plenty to think about on the occasions I wasn't reading it. It dramatizes various moral dilemmas which are central to anyone trying to live a good life, as well as those within the Catholic church, although much of the setting and some of the plot relies on particular Catholic doctrines and tropes. My only criticism would be that the ending seemed too abrupt and 'easy'. But I am giving it 5 stars as it is very well-written, a compulsive read, and the central character is so marvellously realised, that I felt understanding, compassion, and love for him during my reading of the book.
by Mrs Annemarie McAllister (review on Amazon.co.uk)
"An Engaging Whodunnit With Theological Conundrums"
This novel cost me most of a night’s sleep, but it was worth it! It is the kind that I put in the double-read category: first, a fast read because my curiosity about the whodunnit aspect keeps intensifying, then slowly to appreciate the writing, the imagery, the philosophical/theological conundrums, especially as an extended meditation on what it means to be good. Beattie’s good priest is rather exactly the opposite of the Cathars’ good man. This good priest is no amiable Father Brown but a complex very human person who at times loves perhaps not wisely but too well.
by AEK (from Amazon.com)
To combine thriller/mystery with a inside view of one priest's thoughts and emotions is good enough. But this really hung together as an exploration of mystery, conscience and motivation. I'm so regretting having got to the end- please write another!
by Gemma Stockford (from Amazon.co.uk)
"A most compelling read!"
I read this book in just under four days, which for me is almost a record. It takes hardly any time at all to engage you, and once you are 25 pages in it simply motors through its 442 pages. Strengths? The author really knows her Catholic "world": all the groups and sub groups in parish life will have many Catholics and other Christians nodding in recognition and for those who are unfamiliar, it will be genuinely educational. The protagonist, Father John, is a marvellous creation. As a gay Catholic, it is wonderful to see the author giving him such a rounded, vulnerable and deeply human stake in the unfolding story. He transcends all of the stereotypes: sleazy, celibacy-breaking hypocrite, compulsive lover of teenage boys, ambitious creepy cleric with ecclesiastical ambition. In a book where male abuse and violence of women and children is never far from the centre of the unfolding plot, Father John's, Christ-like tender and compassionate relationships with women are among the highlights of this very entertaining and rich book, (especially with "Babbs", one of Westonville's long established prostitutes.)
If I have one gripe, it is that the ending felt a tad abrupt and sudden.....a little "rallentando" wouldn't have gone amiss. It was a trifle too quick for me....I needed some time to disengage from my visit to Westonville, some coda or even postscript. But that is just a small point. It's a cliché, but this really is your pleasing "page turner": it would make a great "Broadchurch" or "Broken" type multi-part TV series......and in between all the pacy plotting and crime-thriller narrative, there is some very serious theology and insight into the human mind and condition. 100% recommended. A great ten pound investment!!
by Mark Dowd (from Amazon.co.uk)
An amazing book!! I couldn't put the book down. Great characters especially the Priest in the title. The storyline just gets better and better as you read.
There are some gory bits and some sex too but it's all just part of the tale and isn't at all gratuitous.
I enjoyed the religious aspect in the book even though I'm not a churchgoer myself. These parts interested me and I think that I learnt from them too.
All in all a fantastic read. YOU need to read it now!!
A book that while fiction and a mystery also seems plucked from recent news stories. Warning it is hard to put down. It also contains theology and ethical reflections. But bear with both for they give clues to the ending of the book.Having worked in the modern parish for over 30 years I have known priests like the main character - good yet imperfect but dedicated to their congregation.
by Amazon customer
"A Difficult Journey"
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The good priest, Fr John, is doing his best to cope with the needs of his parishioners, his vocation and his sexuality. It is all too relevant to the current happenings in the RC church. There are lovely interactions with his family, friends in his parish and the nuns who work locally. The first part of the book is genuinely creepy and at one point I found myself looking behind me just in case... we learn more of the priest's past and how it has led to what is happening in the present. John's spirituality is shown without any sentimentality but with tenderness.
I can really recommend it.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Priest, by Tina Beatie. The story gripped from the very first page and did not let go till the page after the last page! The main character,Fr John came across as a believable Catholic Priest living in the present day ,coping with the problems ,crises and disappointments of the modern world. However,t here were still beacons of hope for the reader. I look forward very much to the continuing story about Fr. John!
(Review on Amazon.co.uk)
by Paul Brennan
I absolutely loved this book. Father John's angst, compassion and loving spirit were portrayed throughout the novel. Although there was a mystery , I think I enjoyed the portrayal of his parish life more compelling. I followed the lives of his parishioners with great interest and rapidly turned pages to find out what happened to them all. It is a story of redemption of the human spirit and I found it most uplifting. I would definitely recommend this book.
In her first novel, Tina Beattie has deftly drawn together a serial killer whodunit, a Catholic priest struggling with his lonely celibate life, the gay culture of the Catholic clergy and a ghost. If you think this all sounds a little heavy, you couldn't be more wrong. The novel moves along at a pace and the different strands of the plot are developed well. Father John is a very sympathetic central character with a back story that's all too believable in the light of recent news stories about the Catholic Church. The book can be read on several levels - as a page turning whodunit, as a study of the difficulty for individuals of making good moral choices, as a comparison of good and evil or simply as the story of a good man trying to do his best against the odds. It is an easy read (in the best sense), but one that will leave you pondering.
by Yorkshire Lass (on Amazon.co.uk)
Tina Beattie delivers a sympathetic hero who struggles with his own demons in this white knuckled thriller that delivers the goods: Layered, intense, and rich with deadly characters. Let there be no doubt — The Good Priest will stay with the reader long after the last page !
I would say that the summary given on NetGalley is a good summary of the book, and gives a good idea of what to expect. I must say that I really enjoyed the book, and was very engaged with it – it was taken to work, and picked up in spare five minutes. It’s not often that I am that involved in a book.
I found the characters completely believable – even the most extreme ones – and Father John was a likeable character and a credible priest. I understood his viewpoint and his doubts were in line with his experiences. There was one passage of theological discussion/exegesis that I skipped over – this was the one part that jarred a little, although I think it was necessary for the plot, and to inform readers, it maybe could have been better introduced. It was a bit heavy for the setting.
I think that a non church goer might find some of the story a little too “Christian-centric” but Christianity, and Catholicism, to be precise, is at the very heart of the story, and so is a necessary part of the telling. Perhaps one criticism is that I felt the ending a little too rushed: while it was a believable conclusion, a bit more explanation of the motives and a slightly longer drawn out ending would have been more satisfying. But I have to admit that my sigh of relief as I finished the book drew some strange looks in the office!
A four star read. I’d recommend this book wholeheartedly.
by Alison Wale
I was swept along by the central character for the first half of this book - It is nice to read a story where a Christian isn’t belittled, written with irony or with an underlying sneer. For Father John to read Psalms, to read Bible passages and not to mock them, as a Christian that was the first time in a long time I have felt like that with modern literature.
However, it was too long. I think you could have cut 20% of the pages and not lost anything from the story. There was a lot of repetition (the feel of the cat on the bed!) and whilst that demonstrates the ordinariness of Father John’s day to day life, it was used too often.
I recognised many of the characters from everyday life as a churchgoer, and a volunteer in different organisations, and they were well written. Some characters started to feel a bit unreal the further I got into the book – I had so many questions about the ‘mystery’ part of the story – where was the Cardinal living, how did he leave no trace wherever he went?
I think this worked better as a snapshot of a parish than as a mystery / crime fiction, which seemed to stutter along. The ending was quite abrupt, and a bit rushed. It gave closure of sorts but wasn’t really that effective.
The last few sentences sound a bit negative – I don’t mean to be, hopefully it is constructive because as a whole I really enjoyed reading the book and think the writer has a lot of promise.
This was an intriguing murder mystery tale. It drew so many story lines together, so many different controversial and earth shattering events that have rocked our world in the last fifty years or so. And Tina Beattie manage to accomplish this feat with great skill and competence. In it we learn of the abuse by priests of unsuspecting minors, we learn of the impact of 9/11, we embark upon a murder investigation and we witness a priest, Fr. John, grapple with the roles and responsibilities that come with the collar worn in priesthood. Often so many storylines would sink a ship so to speak but here that didn't happen. The tale was well told. It was intriguing and held my interest through out.
by NetGalley review
Tina Beattie has been described as 'a - or perhaps the - leading feminist theologian of her generation', whose work is 'by turns elusive, provocative and illuminating, but always adventurous and never falling into easily predicted patterns.' (Karen Kilby, The Tablet).
Tina was born and grew up in Lusaka, Zambia, and she has lived in Nairobi, Harare and Paris. She left school at 15 and did a secretarial course, following her mother's advice to 'learn to type before you get married, so that if he leaves you you'll be able to support yourself.' (After nearly 46 years of marriage to Dave, she hasn't yet had to put that advice to the test). In 1988 Dave and she moved to Bristol from Harare with their four young children, and Tina started a degree in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bristol three years later - the year her youngest child started school. After completing her PhD she taught with the Open University for several years. She took up a full-time post at the University of Roehampton in 2002, and in August 2020 she resigned in order to focus on writing. She is now Professor Emerita of Catholic Studies and continues in her role as Director of Catherine of Siena College - an online college based at Roehampton offering courses in theology, gender and social justice.
Tina is widely published in academic and non-academic books, journals and magazines. Her main research interests are in theology and art, gender and sexuality, and women's rights. After focusing on academic monographs and journal articles for several years, she is now returning to her first creative love - writing fiction as a way of exploring complex ideas through the joys and sorrows of ordinary lives touched by extraordinary events. Tina says:
One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my bedroom floor, writing stories in a notebook as a way of avoiding the domestic rows going on elsewhere in the house. Fiction has always been for me far more than a form of escapism. It is an entry into other worlds, where the imagination prowls restlessly along the fringes of possibility and thought, until it arrives at that Wittgensteinian silence where language fails and consciousness sinks into mystery.
The Good Priest is Tina's second published theological novel. Reviewing her first novel, The Last Supper According to Martha and Mary (Burns & Oates/Continuum, 2001), Sara Maitland wrote:
The contemporary novel allows writers the freedom to use psychological ideas and probabilities to thicken the plot, deepen the emotional authenticity, and engage the reader at other levels than the cerebral. This is Beattie's forte; she manages to bring alive a social dynamic for a large group of individuals, and to create subtle and intriguing balances, relationships and reactions - which genuinely do add a drive and plausibility to the outline plot that we all think we know. (Sara Maitland, Journal of Theology and Sexuality).
Tina's next novel - Between Two Rivers, - will be published by Matador in 2021. It is set in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia/Southern Rhodesia) between 1956 and 1976. It follows the lives of three female characters - Jenny, a restless Englishwoman living in Salisbury (now Harare) and trapped in a violent marriage, Beatrice, Jenny's Shona maid, and Morag, a Scottish doctor who moves from the 'faux idyll' of suburban Saisbury to a mission in a wartorn region in eastern Zimbabwe as the country descends into civil war. In the Preface, the unidentified narrator offers the following reflection on the story about to be told:
Freud saw the human soul as forever torn between the pleasure principle and the death drive - the longing for permanence and security and comfort, and the no less ardent longing for adventure and risk and danger. My story unfolds in that unresolved conflict between peaceful yearning and destructive desire, the inseparability of our dreams and our nightmares. Doesn't the whole of history reveal itself along that jagged edge where the two are locked together in love and war?
I inhabit the vanished bodies where this conflict raged, not as a coloniser nor as an invader but as a survivor and a lover charged with writing their epitaphs. I call them up from their unquiet graves and I offer to be their spirit medium, their borrowed voice, so that their stories might be told.
Is it possible to speak of love without also speaking of hate? Can one feel such depths of sorrow and loss without raging against those who inflicted this mortal anguish on the innocent? Once I would have said no, but now I find myself reflecting on the words of the poet: 'What will survive of us is love.' Who in the end was innocent and who was guilty? Innocence and guilt are clumsy words that fail to do justice to the vulnerability and passion of the people whose stories I recall.
So where to begin? Love and war. The beginning and ending of every story worth telling. I shall begin with both.
Tina is a regular contributor to Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4. After leaving her full-time post at Roehampotn, Dave and she moved to the wild coastal beauty of Camber Sands where swimming in the sea and walks along the dunes provide solace and opportunities to reflect on these strange and disturbing times.
Tina's academic website is at this link: https://pure.roehampton.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/tina-beattie(4ad43d9f-b42a-43fb-af88-e2b98ec5121e).html/.