H.V. Morton joined the list of my favorite authors after just one reading of his "In Search of London." "In the Steps of the Master," Morton's 1934 record of "the thoughts and the experiences which come the way of a man as he travels through Palestine with the New Testament in his hands," has cemented his place on that list. "In the Steps..." is a wonderful piece of travel literature, and certainly repays reading, even given all that has changed in the nearly three-quarters of a century since it was first published.
I was fortunate to be able to make my first-ever trip to Israel last month, and so made a point to find and read "In the Steps..." before I left. I'm tempted to say now that things in the Holy Land may have changed more in the 73 years since this book was published than they had in the nearly two millennia since the time of Christ. Twenty-first century Jerusalem, in particular, is a very different place from the dusty settlement Morton describes. No one, I think would mistake "In the Steps..." as a particularly relevant guidebook today. And yet...
There are elements of the Holy Land that maybe never change, and most of the holy sites Morton visits -- certainly the more significant ones -- are still accessible to the modern pilgrim or curious tourist, and the shape of the land and the setting of Jerusalem or the Sea of Galilee remain as Morton describes them.
That, I think, is the real value of this book. Morton is an excellent travel writer, and anyone who appreciates well-crafted descriptive prose is in for a treat with (I'd venture, based on the two volumes of his I've read so far) most anything he's done. As I noted in my review of "In Search of London," Morton seems equally at home describing both the modern condition and the history of a place. Add to that, in this case, his facility with Scripture and his skill in pulling relevant details out of the Biblical narrative, and this becomes a great way to prepare for a trip and/or to assess what you've seen.
The several modern guidebooks about Jerusalem and Israel I read were good for details. But "In the Steps of the Master" was second only to the Bible itself in helping me prepare for the sense -- the spiritual impact -- of being in the land where Jesus walked.
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Andrew S. Rogers (Cascadian)
Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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From the travel writer whom Jan Morris has called "the much-loved master of the genre, often imitated but never matched." H. V. Morton peerlessly evokes the sights, the splendors, and the drama of history for tourists and armchair travelers alike.
Here, in the spirit of Bruce Feiler's recent bestseller Walking the Bible, is a portrait of the Holy Land as a physical embodiment of faith. Dramatically conjuring the beauty of Israel's countryside, In the Steps of the Master also evokes the all-consuming passions and deep-rooted mysteries of Jerusalem-and while much has changed, as Morton says, the essential nature of the sites he visits has not.