An excellent book which I grabbed for Christmas reading on a whim from my local university library. Louth charts the theme of the desert- both literal and figurative- throughout Christian history from the Bible to T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland. In each chapter, he focuses on a historical context and sets out the meaning of theme in that context. His insights into both the context and the spiritual aspects of the theme are insightful and, I think, helpful.

I think what I liked about this book is that it took the people seriously and sought to find what would be helpful. The subjects range from the well-known to the not particularly well-known, but that doesn't change Louth's respect for them. The figurative desert of mental illness is a particularly striking and bold image which appears in a couple of the chapters, but the transmutation of the desert ideal from the Bible and from the Desert Fathers remains the major theme.

Definitely worth reading and, I suspect, again. This is certainly a book which I will want to come back to again.

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