Valery Rees Publishes on Angels
Former Withington Girl, Valery Rees (née Apley), has recently published her first book for the general reader: From Gabriel to Lucifer: A Cultural History of Angels (London: I B Tauris, 2013).
The book examines the role of angels in different cultures and religions throughout history. Valery's research into the subject was initially sparked by her academic work on the 15th century philosopher Marsilio Ficino, which had led to her appearance in BBC Radio's In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg on several topics, including a programme on angels. The book, which took seven years to complete, is thoroughly researched but easy to read and has received good reviews. One does not need to believe in angels to be interested in them.
During her time at Withington, Valery seemed to be set for the scientific career track. However, after moving with her family to London at the age of fourteen, her path took an unexpected turn, drawing her towards History, French and Latin – though she thought then that on leaving school she'd never look at another word of Latin again.
After reading History at Cambridge, she began a career in industry, here and in the USA. She and her husband returned to London at the end of 1972. In 1975 she was invited to join a group translating the letters of Ficino and this has shaped her life ever since. By 1980, she was teaching Latin at her daughters' school. In 1991 she undertook research on Ficino's correspondence with the King of Hungary. The results earned her acceptance into the academic community and she now has international recognition in the field of Renaissance studies. This in turn led to the radio programmes and to the subsequent commission for a book to cover not just her initial discoveries but angels across a five-thousand year spectrum.
Valery had to balance her work with raising five children, but teaching is now one of her passions in life. She said that "Being able to share what one loves is so rewarding".
She also values the unpredictable. During her travels across Asia with her husband, she was privileged to have an audience with the Dalai Lama. The outcome of this was a project to build a retirement home for his elderly administrators, who could not benefit from the international aid they distributed to their fellow refugees.
When asked "What advice would you give to girls who are trying to forge their own careers?" Valery replied, "Follow the path you love. Go through the doors that open, even if you don't know what you will find. But when the time comes, don't hesitate to stay at home with your children. Those valuable years will bring unexpected skills that will greatly enhance what you can offer later."
Valery's next book will be another Ficino publication. She is also planning a volume of essays by younger scholars, and is editing a prayer book. We look forward to what Valery turns her hand to next.