Review: The Chosen Highway, by Lady Blomfield
December 17, 2010
I took my nook on pilgrimage, with a whole slew of Bahá'í e-books. I realized after the first day that I wanted to read a first-hand account from a pilgrim who visited the Holy Land during the time of the Master, 'Abdu'l-Bahá. I had already read God Passes By just last year, The Dawnbreakers some years ago, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era fairly recently, and several other books dealing with Babí and Bahá'í history. So I decided to try out Lady Blomfield's The Chosen Highway – and was well-rewarded for it.
The books is written in a semi-epistolary style, which struck me as a very odd way of presenting a history. But it worked. Lady Blomfield's aim was to give a sense of the times, to share with others around her what had occurred in the Master's trip to the West and what she had learned from the Master's family in Haifa on her own pilgrimage. The goal was not to present an academically-rigours historical treatise.
The stories she tells are consistent with other histories, and many of them are based on interviews with the women of the Holy family – including Bahiyyih Khanum, Munirih Khanum, and others. Reading their perspectives on the exiles is fascinating. They were able to share insights that made the pilgrimage experience deeper, such as details of the difficulty of the passage from Gallipoli to Akka; the joy at leaving the Citadel mixed with the oppression of being essentially locked away in the House of Abbud; the fear for the Master when the Turkish authorities were seeking an excuse to execute him. These stories are made richer through their sharing, and Lady Blomfield expertly navigates the cultural differences in bringing them to light for a western audience.
Shoghi Effendi's God Passes By clearly remains the pre-eminent book for understanding the momentous events of Bahá'í history. The Chosen Highway makes an excellent companion, and is quite frankly an easier read. I cannot recommend it more highly.