cover of book

The Dry Wood
by Caryll Houselander
Bonnie Lander Johnson and Julia Meszaros
Catholic University of America Press, 2021
eISBN: 978-0-8132-3462-5 | Paper: 978-0-8132-3461-8
Library of Congress Classification PR6015.O79D79 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 823.914

In the English-speaking world, the Catholic Literary Revival is typically associated with the work of G. K. Chesterton/Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. But in fact the Revival’s most numerous members were women. While some of these women remain well known⎯Muriel Spark, Antonia White, Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Day - many have been almost entirely forgotten. They include: Enid Dinnis, Anna Hanson Dorsey, Alice Thomas Ellis, Eleanor Farjeon, Rumer Godden, Caroline Gordon, Clotilde Graves, Caryll Houselander, Sheila Kaye-Smith, Jane Lane, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Alice Meynell, Kathleen Raine, Pearl Mary Teresa Richards, Edith Sitwell, Gladys Bronwyn Stern, Josephine Ward, and Maisie Ward.

There are various reasons why each of these writers fell out of print: changes in the commercial publishing world after World War II, changes within the Church itself and in the English-speaking universities that redefined the literary canon in the last decades of the 20th century. Yet it remains puzzling that a body of writing so creative, so attuned to its historical moment, and so unique in its perspective on the human condition, should have fallen into obscurity for so long.

The Catholic Women Writers series brings together the English-language prose works of Catholic women from the 19th and 20th centuries; work that is of interest to a broad range of readers. Each volume is printed with an accessible but scholarly introduction by theologians and literary specialists.

The first volume in the series is Caryll Houselander’s The Dry Wood. Houselander is known primarily for her spiritual writings but she also wrote one novel, set in a post-war London Docklands parish. There a motley group of lost souls are mourning the death of their saintly priest and hoping for the miraculous healing of a vulnerable child whose gentleness in the face of suffering brings conversion to them all in surprising and unexpected ways. The Dry Wood offers a vital contribution to the modern literary canon and a profound meditation on the purpose of human suffering.
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