26/01/2014

The Adventure of Living (by Paul Tournier)

I would never have come across this book, or even heard of Paul Tournier, had it not been for the strong recommendation for this book by Philip Yancey - although I forget in which of his books. It was on my wishlist for some time, but long out of print; so I was delighted to discover it inexpensively from play.com a couple of months ago (with free postage, as ever, to Cyprus).

Translated from its original French, 'The Adventure of Living' was written in 1965, but is still surprisingly relevant today. Tournier was a Christian doctor; he starts his book with the thesis that humans are made for 'adventure'. I wasn't too sure about that, but over the course of the book he goes on to demonstrate that this doesn't just mean high-risk thrills, but includes creativity, thoughtful changes, and - most of all - listening to and working with God. He cites many anecdotes from his own life and those of some of his patients, whom he attempted to treat holistically, becoming involved in their lives and feelings as well as their physical ailments.

Inevitably a book of this kind reflects the culture of its time and the author's own biases. While not a strong feminist myself, I still found him appearing to be rather demeaning to women in places, implying that a female adventure would include a new outfit - or, at most, marriage and children. However there was so much else that was thought-provoking and inspirational in the book that I was able to gloss over such passages, and remind myself that society has moved on significantly.

It took a while to get going, and was quite heavy-going in places. Unless you are used to this kind of thing, it's not a book to be read in just a couple of sittings. It's only about 240 pages long but still took me about three weeks to complete, reading a chapter per day.

'The Adventure for Living' gave me a lot to think about. While not the scope of this blog to write extensively on the topics included in books I have read, I wrote elsewhere a couple of posts inspired by it: Living as an Adventure? and The Problem with the 'Knowledge of Good and Evil'.

Republished in 2012, it's available at high price on both sides of the Atlantic; however it can often be found second-hand at much more reasonable prices.

Review by Sue F copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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