Author(s): Polly Morland
This book is a modern investigation of an ancient virtue, inspired by a group for stage-frightened musicians in 1940s Manhattan. Coinciding with the terrifying height of World War Two, it was called The Society of Timid Souls. Seventy years later, as fear about everything from terrorism to economic meltdown has become part of our daily lives, Polly Morland reconvenes the society, setting out to discover what it means to be brave in an age of anxiety. Her journey - and this book - is full of amazing people and surprising ideas. It explores how and why people are brave, from battlefield to hospital ward, circus tightrope to suburban street, disaster zone to political protest. It throws light on some of the myths and lies that surround our favourite virtue. And most of all, it asks, can we learn to be brave?
An inspiring investigation of courage in all its forms, from battlefields and bullrings to earthquakes and opera houses.
Commended for The Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Awards for Non-Fiction 2012. Guardian First Book Award 2013.
Morland's philosophical, extremely well-written book suggests that while some people are obviously wired to relish dangerous lives, the timid rest of us may be braver than we think Daily Mail Compelling ... an appealing and original account of one of the greatest human virtues, full of powerful stories. It leaves you hopeful Sunday Times Morland approaches her subject with energy, tenacious curiosity and, however much she may protest that she is lily-livered, courage ... a bracing, moving and uncommon book Observer An eccentric, hugely likeable debut -- John O'Connell The Times What makes the book so interesting is that Morland is not remotely mawkish. Her tone is bracing while her book is part self-help guide, part moral philosophy ... even the most timid of us, she shows, can be helped to overcome our fears -- Cressida Connolly Mail on Sunday Well worth reading -- William Leith Spectator Humans - from the Bronze Age onwards, when we first start to set down ideas about ourselves - have long asked, 'What is it to be brave?' With originality, wit, and no little gumption, Polly Morland pursues this same question. Thanks to hundreds of sensitive, face to face interviews, her paean to timidity - as well as to bravery - is salutatory and moving. This work reminds us that bravery and courage can be a gift of others, and not something that we struggle for alone -- Bettany Hughes Using her documentarian's eye, Polly Morland has written a moving and deeply personal book; an examination of courage brimming with humanity Amanda Foreman A dazzling synthesis of reportage, moral philosophy and memoir, Polly Morland's anatomy of courage moves effortlessly from the bullring and the battlefield to the concert hall and the maternity ward. Searching, startling and richly humane, this is the kind of book that reads you as you read it. A great achievement Matthew Sweet With The Society of Timid Souls, Polly Morland expertly weaves scores of riveting stories, fascinating interviews, and exotic experiences into a ceaselessly engaging investigation of our most-elevated virtue. We witness ordinary humans taking extraordinary action on the battlefields, bullrings, big waves, and even lunch-counters of this life, and at each turn, would-be timid souls summon resolve in the face of unbearable challenges. For journeying into her own self-doubt, for reminding us of our glorious potential, and for assembling a cast of courageous souls to inspire us to reach it, Polly Morland herself deserves a medal -- Aron Ralston, author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place Polly Morland's voice is warm yet very smart, and she's collected some cracking good stories -- Lionel Shriver Polly Morland has written a beautiful and extremely moving book about the quintessentially human trait of bravery. A widely recognized concept that almost no one really understands, bravery has long needed a serious exploration like The Society of Timid Souls. It is gorgeously written, deeply felt, and sharply researched. This is one of the few books I know that leaves me literally grateful to the writer for doing the work they do. I loved it. -- Sebastian Junger This fascinating exploration of what it means to be brave - when your natural inclination is to cower, or flee - is a moving testament to mankind's capacity to face danger in pursuit of a greater good. Those who shudder at the wraiths and hazards on the darkening horizon will draw consolation, and courage, from Polly Morland's conclusions. -- Rowan Pelling We all have a private definition of courage, which (I've concluded) we take to be universal; but as Polly Morland shows, there are all kinds of courage, and no necessary agreement on what it means. It's one of those books which encourages a reader to think again: always a good thing, in my view -- Hilary Mantel
During fifteen years as a documentary-maker, Polly Morland worked as producer/director for the BBC and Channel Four, as well as for PBS and the Discovery Channel. In a moment of courage, Morland left her job to write this book. She was awarded a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award to support writing The Society of Timid Souls.