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

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An entertaining and occasionally inspiring look at a surprisingly slippery subject.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

A journey into the modern life of an ancient virtue ­– bravery – and a quest to understand who might possess it and how
 
With The Society of Timid Souls, or How To Be Brave, documentary filmmaker Polly Morland sets out to investigate bravery, a quality that she has always felt she lacked.  The book takes inspiration from a vividly eccentric, and radical, self-help group for stage-frightened performers in 1940s Manhattan, which coincided with the terrifying height of World War II and was called The Society of Timid Souls.  Seventy years later, as anxiety about everything from terrorism to economic meltdown continues, Morland argues that courage has become a virtue in crisis.  We are, she says, all Timid Souls now.

   Despite a career in which she has filmed in rebel-held Colombian jungles and at the edge of Balkan mass graves, interviewing convicted murderers, drug-traffickers, and terrorists, Morland herself has never felt brave.  Often, the very reverse.  So she sets out to discover how and why courage is achieved in an age of anxiety and whether it might even be learned.  Drawing on her interviews and encounters with soldiers and civilians, bullfighters and big-wave surfers, dissidents fighting for freedom and cancer patients fighting for their lives, Morland examines bravery across the spectrum: from the first childhood act of defiance by Bernard Lafayette, a leader of the civil rights movement who later faced down the KKK in Alabama, or the reflexive will-to-survive of  Vjollca Berisha, a Kosovo Albanian who endured a massacre by playing dead among the bodies of her own family, to the small acts of everyday bravery that quietly punctuate our lives, in schoolyards, labor wards, and hospices the world over.

   Along the way, Morland draws attention to some of the myths of bravery that have been conjured and perpetuated over time and argues that, often, courage exists as much in the telling as in the doing.  At once an exploration of what bravery means and a chronicle of the author's personal journey among those who embody it, The Society of Timid Souls is a profound, approachable meditation on this most valued and mysterious of human qualities.  In setting off on the trail of the lionhearted, Polly Morland finds out a great deal about what makes some of us extraordinary, and what of the extraordinary we all share.

 

About Polly Morland

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POLLY MORLAND is an award-winning British documentary-maker. She has directed films for the BBC, Channel 4, and the Discovery Channel and lives in the Welsh borders with her husband and three sons.


Author Residence: England
 
Published July 9, 2013 by Crown. 322 pages
Genres: Self Help, History, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Law & Philosophy, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Society of Timid Souls
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Kathryn Hughes on Jul 12 2013

In less accomplished hands The Society of Timid Souls would be a horrible hodge podge. But Morland keeps her rhetorical register so high that her narrative just about holds together as she rackets round the world in search of bravehearts.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Kathryn Hughes on Jul 12 2013

...Morland keeps her rhetorical register so high that her narrative just about holds together as she rackets round the world in search of bravehearts.

Read Full Review of The Society of Timid Souls: O... | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Kate Kellaway on May 18 2013

Morland skips lightly where angels fear to tread. Her book has astonishing range.

Read Full Review of The Society of Timid Souls: O... | See more reviews from Guardian

Kirkus

Good
on Jun 25 2013

An entertaining and occasionally inspiring look at a surprisingly slippery subject.

Read Full Review of The Society of Timid Souls: O... | See more reviews from Kirkus

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