Rover masthead highlights favorites from Christmas break

Mary Frances Myler, Editor-in-Chief: Once Upon a River (Diane Setterfield)

Brimming with mystery, heart, and beautifully written characters, Once Upon a River is a novel best read by the fire with a big cup of tea in hand. Set on the banks of the Thames, the story centers on a young girl who is found lifeless in the river on a dark midwinter night. But after the girl mysteriously returns to life, three families lay claim to her. These competing claims unearth long-kept secrets, unexplained connections, and the stories told upon the banks of the Thames. With just a touch of magical realism, Setterfield crafts a lush, atmospheric novel about storytelling, home, and the power of love in the face of death.

Elizabeth Self, Managing Editor: King Henry V (William Shakespeare)

Before Christmas break, I wanted to read one of Shakespeare’s histories to explore how questions about power, morality in political life, and human agency are considered in different genres. Fortunately, the Hertog Foundation hosted a one-week seminar on Henry V, and I enjoyed the text (as well as the 1944 film with Laurence Olivier playing Henry V) in the company of thoughtful scholars. While Shakespeare’s comedies provide revelatory insights into human nature through domestic politics, Henry V broadens the playing field, even challenging us to imagine that the stage, “this cockpit, hold / the vasty fields of France.” In fact, I did not expect that so much of our study of the text would revolve around drama and the imagination and their relationship with politics. For the political theorist, dramatic artist, and anyone else who dares to speak about what it means to be human: Henry V should be on your list.

W. Joseph DeReuil, Executive Editor: Barchester Towers (Anthony Trollope)

Considered a comedic classic of 19th century England, Barchester Towers demonstrates the power (and vulnerability) of faith and honesty in a tumultuous world. The book’s heroine, the widowed Mrs. Bold, attempts to navigate the clash between the self-assured, progressive low-churchman—and her alleged lover—Mr. Obadiah Slope and the haughty, but principled high-churchman, Dr. Grantly. This narrative of religious and political reform in Anglican England—interspersed with Trollope’s own soliloquy on the art of storytelling—speaks in many ways to attacks that faithful Catholics suffer from both sides of the political divide in our nation today.

Nico Schmitz, Culture Editor: Death Comes for the Archbishop (Willa Cather)

This 1927 novel by Willa Cather follows the journey and struggles of Bishop Jean Latour and his close friend and vicar Father Joseph Vaillant as they attempt to establish a new diocese in the desolate territories of New Mexico. While not Catholic herself, Cather writes a deeply Catholic and largely plotless historically-based account of the two missionaries as they seek to build communities of faith while also preserving their own interior lives. Cather’s nostalgic writing style brings readers to the silence of the southwestern desert and the beautiful prose illuminates the Church in all Her holiness as well as two lives of great sacrifice for Christ. This solitary and reflective novel serves as an enjoyable narrative for a reader of any age.

Sarah Hui, Religion Editor: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23: I. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito (first movement), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

If you find yourself in need of gorgeous, dramatic, and sweeping classical music, look no further—or rather, listen no further—than this piano concerto by our beloved balletic composer from recent Christmas merrymaking past: Tchaikovsky. Filled with stormy and rushing cadences, climaxes that tug at your heartstrings, and call and response portions evocative of internal dialogues, the concerto promises an adventure into a sensory realm both gentle and careening, tentative and triumphant, and playful and spectacular. Around 20 minutes long, truly, it is a delight for the ears and for the spirit.

Zef Crnkovich, Politics Editor: Roman Holiday (1953)

Starring Gregory Peck as journalist Joe Bradley and Audrey Hepburn as “Princess Ann” in her first major American role—for which she won an Academy Award as Best Actress—this romantic comedy directed by William Wyler is a fantastic watch for those with a high sense of culture. Ann, princess of an unnamed European country, is visiting the major cities of Europe in a post-war peacebuilding effort, but the stress of the constant engagements becomes too much and she disappears from the embassy in Rome one night. The main plot of the story details how Bradley finds her on the streets of Rome, brings her safely home, and then gives her a tour of the Eternal City. Featuring the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Veritá), Ann’s first cigarette, and a wild Vespa chase, the film’s witty dialogue and beautiful scenery will have you laughing, and Bradley’s affectionate and tender treatment of Ann is a true delight to watch.

Dane Litchfield, Social Media Coordinator: Encanto

Encanto, Disney’s latest film, hit Disney+ on Christmas Eve. I decided to watch it that night before going to bed and was amazed. The music, characters, and visual aesthetic communicate a powerful story that pulls at the heartstrings of self-discovery and healing. Featuring memorable songs such as “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” and “Dos Oruguitas,” the story of a family and their miracle is truly a memorable one. Encanto stands defiant in depicting its Colombian setting in a positive outlook, an attitude not often granted to the country in modern discourse. Encanto is truly a celebration of family, culture, and the bonds that draw communities together towards the common good. Bravo, Disney.