The Society of Timid Souls (or how to be brave), Polly Morland

Profile Books
Profile Books

Format: jazzy blue hardback.

When I first read the blurb for this book, I assumed a work of fiction. The stories sounded so wonderfully fantastical and exciting that I thought it had to be so. From the personal courage of a woman who gave herself a caesarean to a firefighter’s fearless act of bravery and kindness in the presence of a suicide bomber, ablaze as a result of his failed mission. One thing this book has definitely taught me is that people do far more interesting things in real life than they could ever possibly do in novels.

Polly Morland is on a mission to explore the notion of the ‘timid soul’ and how one might embrace such a label in order to escape it. What makes us act bravely, or courageously? And what really is the difference? My only gripe is that at times this determination to create an intellectual distinction between the two feels a little like reading a dissertation, breaking away from the smooth prose recounting the faultlessly fascinating encounters with those who have committed ‘brave’ or ‘courageous’ acts.

What I absolutely love about this book is that it is merely the trunk of a tree with many, many branches. The interviewees’ stories become all the more fascinating when you can put the book down: to Google or YouTube someone and find information for yourself. For instance to accompany a chapter entitled ‘Elemental’,  you may watch a video of surfer Mike Parsons’ most famous conquest (a viral sensation); this may lead, as it did for me, to a happy half-hour of video hopping via YouTube’s suggestion panel. The fact is that you could Google any name in this book and find out more for yourself; in this way the book felt like a process, a journey (oh the cliché) that I enjoyed being an active part of. As with my previous review for ‘The Gamal’, I love books that encourage me to look at things away from the pages within; to step outside of the book world for a moment and create a link with your lived ‘outside’ world.

A heart-warmingly insightful read.


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