The blurb for Angels True Stories of How They Touch Our Lives by Hope Price is as follows;

Do Angels really exist or are they just a myth?

Angels offers evidence that these messengers from God do intervene in our lives, carrying out practical missions of mercy and comfort. Hope Price has gathered the testimonies of hundreds of people to whom angels have miraculously appeared, sometimes in human form, sometimes as beings shimmering with light. Angels have been seen to rescue children and adults from disaster, give early warning of impending tragedy and offer protection in times of fear, danger and bereavement. And always they leave behind a sense of divine peace.

Angels is an inspiring account of the happiness these heavenly beings are bringing to ordinary people in need.

At a readable 194 pages long this book is a great treat to take with you on train journeys. It has a somewhat concise tone which allows one to pick it up and put it down without losing the flow, in the main this is a positive comment to make about the book. It is the kind of book one keeps in your handbag, and dips into whilst waiting for the bus, at the Doctors or when, miraculously, you arrive too early for your lunchtime meeting.

Ironically, this is also one of the downsides of the book. The tone is rather clipped, and staccato throughout. Price does her best to overcome the difficulties of presenting story after story, and without an academic thread or collective narrative running through the book or the selection of stories, she is somewhat limited to the rather prosaic and repetitive format of ‘as experienced by’ Mrs Definitely Christian from Weymouth or Mr. Reasonable from Godalming. This is the limitation of the survey form, rather than Price’s abilities as an author.

The angelic experiences are vast ranging, spread throughout all areas of the country (Price’s main focus is in this country) and the reports cross both sexes, all ages, and demographics. Children and adults alike recount not dissimilar recollections of light, calm, peace and protection. There are no outrageously embarrassingly ridiculous stories which leave one wondering quite who these people are. Price presumably edited out those versions, and instead she has selected the quiet, often understated stories. Stories which inform, and offer a mere thread of proof of the divine visiting us here on earth. The best examples she includes are ones such as those which took place during the World War when angels were seen by other witnesses and those ‘chosen’ were seemingly miraculously saved by these beings from an incendiary device which should, by all rights, have killed them and demolished their house instantly.

Price is keen to position her chosen accounts in amongst scripture and history, e.g. one of her chapters is called ‘The Facts’ and another is ‘Cherub, Seraph and Archangels’. There are references to scripture, and links are made to historic threads of angelic representations. It is interesting how many people try to organise their own experiences by relying on historic ideas, for example defining and examining their sightings in the context of figures like St. Michael or the Devil. Price does her best to negotiate around these self-conscious accounts, and in the main does so adeptly. One means of negotiating these more self conscious modern accounts is to return to ‘Angels in History’ where she examines reports and angelic constructions through figures like Joan of Arc, or the nineteenth century figure Sundhar Singh (a fascinating account). Another chapter designed to create a platform of reason and logic is entitled ‘For the Sceptic’.

The stories themselves repeatedly raise one major question, one which the book left unanswered. If angels are seen as figures of protection and salvation, then what is it that marks out the people they saved?

This is a fundamental question which remains ignored and unanswered within the book, despite the progress of engaging with the text instantly drawing one toward major questions about theology, faith, and psychology. To be fair, it is not Price’s intention to examine these concepts in any depth, she is merely a vehicle for sharing stories that people genuinely feel they have experienced in their lives. Price does not judge (nor should she), or critique; her role is as impartial surveyor and mediator between those who have seen angels and those who read the book.

That being her brief, the book is a success but it is somehow not enough in its current format. There is not sufficient substance to engage all demographics.

Religious bias is a major drawback of the book, despite Price’s claims that her role is objective and she makes no assertions or denials. However, it is increasingly clear that the vast majority of stories are those with Christian tendencies or confirmed belief, and that she herself, as is her family, are also of like Christian mind. Price sensibly keeps this removed without denying or relying upon this own aspect of her private life. She rather delicately and perfectly positions her final comment on her family’s experience. As evidence goes, her own story was not particularly convincing (certainly not in comparison to some of the other stories go) but it was a nice finale, and deciding whether or not to share that story was probably a difficult decision to make. It is also clear that her own motivations for writing the book were because of a ‘call from God’.

Blake, The Angels hovering over the body of Christ in the Sepulchre; Christ in the sepulchre, guarded by angels (1805, V&A)

Cultural bias is also raised, which Price does go some way to discuss with her chapter on international angels. Why are ‘angels’ defined in terms that have come down to us through the ages? Why are characters such as St. Michael relied upon, why is light a feature, or why are wings repeatedly remarked upon, particularly when the Bible itself never once mentions wings (the intimation and suggestion of flight, yes, but never wings).

If God is here on earth, in the form of his ministration of angels, why do they save some and not others? Why are some people not saved? Price never takes the dichotomy of divine salvation and the rational mind on in any meaningful sense. This gap leaves a more ‘rational’[1] mind wanting, and dare I say unfulfilled (perhaps, it may be said, a not unsurprising state for any non-believer to experience).

I recommend the book as a light weight consideration of the complexities of human experience, as seen through various accounts of death, birth, loss, and fear. I warn you of the fairly apparent bias within the book, but that being said, the content itself speaks over the sound of voices which were fairly reluctant to be open about their experience of Angels, and from people who seemed to have been profoundly affected and felt forever privileged. This book can never prove or deny the existence of angels, but it does offer an insight into a mystical esoteric space which is seldom examined in this more rational world.

[1] For ‘rational’ read secular. Note this review is itself written from a Western British bias.