However, I have read everything Therese of Lisieux wrote, correspondence as well as memoirs and the Derniers Entretiens several times, often in the original French, since I first stumbled across The Story of a Soul in a bookstore in 1992. Since then, the books I refer to as "The Therese Collection" have come to occupy a shelf of their own, and I was interested to read this one. When speaking of the founding of the French Carmels, he mentions the novices and foundress thus: "For five months they lived in the improvised furnishings of a thatched house." Really? 116 Nevin claims that Teresa de Avila "made no explicit claims nor did she articulate any "unio mistica" or visitation." Has this man read any of Teresa of Avila's writings, in any language? From page one, he seems to have issues with Catholicism, Christianity, and Therese herself, and I doubt very much that he understands the experience of the "dark night of the soul." Having lived through it myself, I know that doubt is not unbelief--which is precisely what makes the dark night so excruciatingly painful. (not to mention the collateral effects of gangrenous intestines, etc.) Nevin also speaks of "the christian centuries" in lower case and past tense, as if they were over and done with long ago. The author's own issues are very much to the fore; I doubt he is aware how very much he gives away about them, with his reiterated obsession with the supposed "maleness" of Therese's sisters as opposed to a fantastical "femininity" on the part of Louis--merrily disregarding that his "dreamer" managed to father nine children and raise five of them in spite of widowhood, poor health and considerable loss of capital. For example, I have read the family correspondence in French several times, and I wonder where he gets the idea of a "cold" husband and loveless marriage. Nevin can also be very waspish toward Therese, reducing her to anonymity as "a novice" when quoting a well-known conversation between herself and Sr. Febronie, and then saying "Unfortunately (italics mine), the novice Sr Febronie was adressing became exceptionally adept at self-expression and self-depiction--not the surest avenue of humility." Says the man who has written several books on the lives and work and activities of others. 221 Nevin, after some heavy-handed criticism of her poetry (never intended to be read by outsiders anyway) declares that "She did not even have the self-pity requisite to be a poet." Once again his issues skew his interpretation. Nevin may have found it "unfortunate" that Therese was adept at self-expression, but the thousands who have been comforted by her writings would disagree; and if it's so unfortunate, why has he written two books about her?
I've loved St Therese since I read about her when I was 7 years old. I have read her autobiography multiple times and several devotional books based around her journal and theology. If you haven't read much about St Therese, you should not start with this book, because he makes many references that might not make sense without already knowing her life. Nevin takes multiple sources from French philosophy, theology, and medicine to give us a fuller picture of St Therese's world. Yes, it is an interpretation of Therese's faith and life that was rejected by nearly everyone who knew her and was with her when she died, but for the 21st century, obsessed with both doubt and highly emotive, sensation-based faith experiences, this image of a woman remaining faithful -- feeling like an atheist but praying, thinking and loving Christ like a Christian -- may be more inspiring than simplistic, easily dismissed images of a pious nun holding a cross and a bouquet of roses.