SCARLET RIBBONS by Rosemary Bailey

SCARLET RIBBONS

A Priest with AIDS

KIRKUS REVIEW

Successfully integrating her voices of loving sister and dispassionate reporter, the author, a journalist, tells the life story of her brother, Simon Bailey, a gay priest in the Church of England who died in 1995 of AIDS. Drawing from his journals and sermons, from interviews with parishioners, other family members, and friends, the author traces the rocky path her brother walked from his youthful awareness of sexual difference, to his conversion out of the austere Baptist Church in which he was raised into the more “esthetic and sensual” Church of England, to his ordination, years of ministry to Dinnington parish in Yorkshire, and his final physical decline under the tender watch and care of his devoted parishioners. Much of the drama of the story unfolds in the step-by-step process by which the priest admits friends, close parishioners, family, church hierarchy, and the press—in that order—to the knowledge of his illness, a sequence that moves the author frankly to confess how “immensely sad” it is that she, her siblings, and parents were not among the first to be trusted with the news. That unself-justifying candor is part of what makes Bailey the perfect memorialist of her brother. Though she joyfully communicates the high points of reactions to his illness—especially the unprecedented public support he received, as an AIDS-afflicted Anglican priest, to continue actively in his priestly office, as he wished, up until he died’she also admits to moral misgivings over the secrecy he kept for so long. Simon’s shortened life reminds Bailey of the dying Beth from Little Women; but his capacity to transform private suffering into eloquent and edifying sermons will suggest to many readers of Scarlet Ribbons another, more ambiguous literary portrait from Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter: the long-suffering minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. The ambiguities in Simon’s life that the author preserves in her memorial of him will deepen and extend the impression he leaves. (16 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-85242-521-0
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998




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