The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave by Polly Morland

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The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave by Polly Morland

Category: Reference
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Polly Morland investigates the question "What does it mean to be brave?" by means of compelling interviews and experiences from around the world.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Profile Books
ISBN: 978-1781251904

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I see no reason why the shy and timid in any community couldn’t get together and help each other.

The above words were uttered in 1943 by a gentleman called Bernard Gabriel. Mr Gabriel was a piano player who founded a unique club, The Society of Timid Souls that encouraged timid performers and fear-wracked musicians to come in out of the cold to play, to criticise and be criticised in order to conquer that old bogey of stage fright. The method evidently worked, as many a timid soul claimed to be cured by these unorthodox methods and club membership grew considerably in the years that followed.

Polly Morland expands on this idea and takes it a step further in an attempt to answer the question: What does it mean to be brave? Morland travels the world in search of the answer and interviews individuals who embody specific aspects of bravery: soldiers, a bullfighter, a man with a terminal disease, firefighters, policemen and performers, to name but a few. The result is a fascinating insight on what it means to be brave and the results may change the reader’s perception. For example, is bravery a quality solely exhibited by the great and good? Can a bad person be described as brave? A candid interview with a former bank robber explores the idea in depth, looking at the concept of moral courage.

Each story is absorbing and fascinating, a real testimony to the power of the human body and spirit. One of the most memorable cases in the book was that of a pregnant lady in a remote farmhouse who performed a caesarean section on herself with a butchers knife in order to save her baby. Some stories are humorous, some shocking and some, such as the story of the survivors of a massacre, deeply disturbing. This book, which appears on the surface to be a light-hearted read, is profoundly moving and thought-provoking at times. And yes, it did make me cry several times!

Unfortunately, whilst the stories themselves were fascinating reading, I did not find Morland’s commentary as appealing to read. She seemed to add too much padding to the text by means of her detailed observations, which sometimes had the detrimental effect of diluting the impact of the interviews themselves. In some cases, I found myself tempted to skip ahead a couple of pages to the next story, and past the dull, excessively wordy commentary. I really did struggle with Morland’s writing style, which left me with mixed feelings about the book.

The Society of Timid Souls is a beautiful compilation on interviews and experiences that shine a light on the true meaning of courage. Maybe, having read it, I have come away a little braver myself.

For similar stories of courage in adversity aimed at a slightly younger audience, try The Bumper Book of Bravery by Charlie Norton

Buy The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave by Polly Morland at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave by Polly Morland at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave by Polly Morland at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave by Polly Morland at Amazon.com.


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