At last we have an independent review of the controversial new novel HOLY BIBLE by Vanessa Russel. It was published in THE AGE newspaper 3 July 2013.

There is also an interview with Vanessa.

It's not much of a review and I'm left with the impression that the reviewer did not read the novel and merely asked Vanessa a few questions about the plot. For example the review does not mention the humour in the book, which is the primary feature of its attraction.

Moreover the review puts the ending of the novel at the start of the book by making out that the novel is about a girl who leaves home to study nursing. That does not happen until the conclusion.

Vanessa told me that the book was not about Christadelphian reform; but nevertheless it appears to me that she criticises Christadelphians in this interview. For example:
''They try and control what you even think."

Vanessa has asked me not to promote her book on this website; so I won't give a link to where it can be purchased online. However it will not be hard for you to track down a copy if you want to read it.

I understand that it is already in its first reprint; so congratulations to Vanessa on her success.

The review and interview follow and the source link is given at the bottom of the page. 

"The novel's heroine is 17-year-old Tranquility Bloom, who in 1991 leaves a sect, and therefore everyone she knows, to study nursing.

Tranquility's father, Horace, the leader of the branch, is a sanctimonious brute who batters a relative for avoiding services. One character is forcibly baptised, another abducted by a cult-buster.

In real life, Dr Russell says, there was no physical violence at branches she attended in Northcote and Doncaster, and no cult-busters because Christadelphianism isn't a cult.
But she condemns the sect's strict rules, harsh judgments on appearance and morals - ''a chorus of whispering oldies'' - and the fear of disfellowship and holy judgment if you don't conform.

''They try and control what you even think. They use a verse that 'if you've thought it, it's the same as doing it'.''

She says it has taken years of counselling to learn to think for herself. ''I've got this voice in my head all the time going, 'Why are you doing that?' ''

Christadelphians don't vote and are discouraged from sex before marriage, gambling, drinking alcohol to excess and smoking.

The men, called brothers, give readings and run Sunday services or meetings. A committee of seven ''arranging brothers'', deals with members who transgress moral codes. Dr Russell says women, or sisters, are ''treated as second-class citizens'': they teach Sunday school and lay out bread for communion but never give Sunday readings.

In the 1990s, her congregation didn't approve of members going to the football, celebrating Christmas, or women going to university. Women now wear shorter skirts, and many go to university, she says.

Christadelphians await the return of Jesus, live by the Bible and, before being baptised as adults, are examined on the scriptures.

Dr Russell said her parents were upset when, aged 26, she left the sect to study journalism. Friends sent cards saying: ''What are you going to say to Jesus when He comes back?''
But the sky didn't fall. She gained her PhD in creative writing and is now a university writing tutor. She still won't buy Tatts tickets or say ''Oh my God''. But she loves voting; ''When I first did it I was terrified someone [from the Christadelphians] would see my car parked in the voting place.''

While she is close to her family and admires the faith's close community, she wanted to show in the book that ''there can be great harm done in the name of religion, especially when it tries to constrict your thoughts and your actions''.

She hopes it will encourage discussion and show those ''a bit scared of leaving that it's OK and you can have a good life outside''.

The 2011 census showed there were 10,653 Christadelphians. The sect was founded by English doctor John Thomas, who vowed to devote his life to Bible study after a near-shipwreck in 1832 while migrating to America. He developed an austere faith based on 1st-century beliefs, adherence to the Bible, full-immersion baptism and rejecting formal clergy. He invented a name, Christadelphians or ''brethren in Christ'', in 1864 so members could be exempt from fighting in the American Civil War.

Craig Izzard, a second cousin of Dr Russell and secretary of the Norwood Dawn Christadelphian branch, in North Ringwood, said the branches were run independently and some were more conservative than others. He said older members might be ''miffed or upset'' by Dr Russell's book, but it was fictional and she was entitled to her opinion."

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/bible-draws-on-memories-of-strict-christadelphian-life-20130702-2pa0i.html#ixzz2ZllLpva0


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