Monica Furlong Bibliography

Grade 6-8 Wise Child's life takes a new direction when her grandmother dies; her parents are both gone and in all the poverty-stricken village there is no one willing to take her inexcept Juniper, a mysterious healer from Cornwall who lives alone and has decidedly heterodox ideas about the place and purpose of women. Wise Child is self-centered and headstrong, but under Juniper's cheerful tutelage she begins to see herself as part of a world large enough for a liberated view and for magic too; Juniper's an expert witch, a hybrid combination of natural scientist and traditional broom-rider. Wise Child is quickly initiated into the secret arts. Juniper is both too modern and too perfect for the story. She has little difficulty coping with a Good Witch's usual enemies (an evil sorceress and a mob of fearful peasants egged on by the local priest), always arrives in the nick of time to rescue Wise Child, and shows never a trace of fear, impatience, or superstition. When, her many good deeds forgotten, she is about to be burned at the stake, she escapes with Wise Child, and the two find their way to the Isles of the Blessed. Readers may be intrigued both by the characters and by this revisionist view of witchcraft, although they will find a more realistic and involving exploration of it in Margaret Mahy's The Changeover (Macmillan, 1984). John Peters, New York Public Library
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Monica Furlong, writer and campaigner: born Kenton, Middlesex 17 January 1930; Moderator, Movement for the Ordination of Women 1982-85; married 1953 William Knights (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1977); died Umberleigh, Devon 14 January 2003.

There are not many wise people in the world, and Monica Furlong was without doubt a wise woman. Her books (novels, biographies, travel, children's books and religious books), as well as her journalism and her leadership as Moderator of the Movement for the Ordination of Women, enabled her both to reflect the experience and learning of a key generation in the second half of the 20th century, but also to communicate it to a wide public.

A bright grammar-school girl with no particular religious upbringing, born in Kenton, Middlesex, in 1930, she took a secretarial course since her family did not expect a girl to go to university. After secretarial jobs she was in demand as a journalist, writing for The Spectator (for Bernard Levin), The Guardian and the Daily Mail, where she was on the staff for several years, and in more recent times for The Tablet. From 1974 to 1978 she was a Producer in the Religious Department of the BBC.

When a young secretary she was drawn to the Church of England and through her local vicar Joost de Blank, later Bishop of Stepney and then Archbishop of Cape Town, she learnt an Anglo-Catholic form of religion. Among the most painful experiences of her life was her divorce after 24 years of difficult marriage – in those days seen as a terrible failure and disgrace for a Christian. She did not allow this to drive her away, however, but worked tirelessly to promote a truthful church where all are accepted.

Her work as a journalist (on both secular and religious affairs) brought her into contact with most of the events and issues of church life; while her books, beginning with With Love to the Church (1965), mainly reflected her understanding of prayer and spirituality, from John Bunyan (Puritan's Progress, 1975) to the Trappist monk Thomas Merton (Merton: a biography, 1980), the guru Alan Watts ("Genuine Fake": a biography of Alan Watts, 1986, reissued as Zen Effects, 2001) and finally Thérèse of Lisieux (Thérèse of Lisieux, 1987).

Furlong stood in the proud Anglican tradition of women theologians and writers such as Dorothy Sayers and Rose Macaulay. She shared with them a depth of catholic practice and original theological insight, a critical love for the Church and willingness to challenge it, as well as a private life which did not conform to everything the hierarchy wanted to regard as respectable. But their fame eluded her, as she found it difficult to produce a regular and consistent series of novels which would gradually have built up a committed body of readers and laid the foundations for best-sellerdom.

The great challenge to the Church in her later years was the campaign for the ordination of women to the priesthood. Everything Furlong did was founded on theological understanding, but her outstanding ability was to work on several fronts at once: her leadership of the St Hilda Community (which worshipped in the East End of London on Sunday evenings) gave women a vision of what could be done in leading worship; people who thought that worship was impossible unless a (male) priest celebrated the eucharist for them, not only saw that the sky did not fall if a woman priest (from the United States) was the celebrant, but more importantly that, if the men continued to control the eucharist and keep it within their own power, then there were many other ways in which Christians could worship God.

Meanwhile her knowledge of the media, and her ability to think strategically, made her a brilliant and courageous politician. She knew how to present the cause to the media, and how to avoid being silenced by the authorities in the Church. Her strength, and refusal to be daunted, is the chief memory of those who worked with her. She understood the feminist claims and though she loved men, collectively and as individuals, she would not allow herself to become dependent on their approval, but knew that women too had much to offer and the Church, and society, needed to hear them.

Monica Furlong regretted that she had never been able to go to university, and that the need to earn her living as a writer had not allowed her time to do a full-scale degree later; but she was delighted to be given two honorary doctorates – by Bristol University and the General Theological Seminary of New York. She had countless admirers, and many friends of all kinds throughout the world, whose lives she touched and influenced, and in her work as a counsellor she could combine sympathy and challenge. When she settled in Penge, in south-east London, she found herself editing the parish magazine and greatly amused her friends as she suffered all the usual frustrations of parish life.

As she faced the approach of death she said that she felt she had done the things that she needed to do in her life, and there was nothing unfinished; except only that she was desperately sad to leave her grandchildren when they were small, and would never see them grow up or be able to contribute to their growth and understanding; her children's books (such as Wise Child, 1987) may mediate some of this to them when they are older.

In her last year she was still campaigning for the abolition of the Act of Synod which continues to hedge the ordination of women as priests about with huge privileges for those who object to it; and she was delighted at the appointment of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ruth McCurry

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