Set in the seventh century, this is a novel about a priest who receives a dream from God telling him to set up a monastery in a remote location so he may leave the sinful world behind. Artt takes two monks with him, young Trian and older Cormac. They set off and find a craggy island untouched by humans. There, Artt determines they are to serve God.
The story is told from all three character’s pov in alternating passages and is engrossing enough to keep me reading. The hardship these three men faced was incredible, eking out a bare existence with little food and no readily available shelter. Artt, in his religious wisdom, decides things like altars are more important than building a shelter. The work of building and hunting goes to Trian and Cormac where Artt simply directs them and copies religious texts.
Their fellowship crumbles, mostly due to Artt’s leadership, and the book ends in a way that satisfies.
A quick and easy read, this novel was surprisingly interesting. Honestly, I don’t think I would have read a book about three monks in the seventh century had it been written by someone else.
I put this book on hold without reading a synopsis because I’d read the author’s work before and enjoyed the narrative flow. While not disappointed, I was surprised by the subject matter. This tale takes place during the 1918 Spanish Flu. So I read a book involving a pandemic while living in a pandemic. Again.
On the surface, this book is about a woman, Nurse Julie Power, who cares for pregnant women in a makeshift ward in an overflowing hospital in Dublin, Ireland. But it’s also a love story, one that unfolds in teeny tiny bits.
Julie doesn’t fall for a handsome doctor or anything, but instead she falls unknowingly in love with a helper girl named Bridie. Julie isn’t aware of how she feels, exactly, but is aware that at thirty she should be married and popping out children of her own. This is the way. Or was the way, back in the day.
The author does, rather brilliantly, give the reader an unflinching gaze at birthing babies at a time where the process left women scarred or dead. Those that survived would keep on having babies because birth control was rather frowned upon back then.
Also, the author paints a vivid picture for the setting. I could feel the drafty little room, smell the stink of the air, and feel the pang of hunger alongside the characters.
No men were featured. There were a couple that had bit appearances, but barely any speaking lines. What a delight! I’m so accustomed to books chock full of men that, for a while, I was overjoyed when a woman had more page time than a man. Books are better now, yes, absolutely, and I love the trend. After all, we aren’t all white men so why should we read stories about white men? That’s enough politics for one post. Let’s move on.
Not once did I feel like I was taken out of the story. The author managed to keep me firmly anchored in Dublin, in the chill of the room, in the dark of the streets at night. This is part of the reason I blew through this book in a couple of days. The main reason is because of the author’s writing style. As I said above, I love it.
My only complaint is that there aren’t any quotation marks around the dialogue. This makes it hard to read for me, as I’m not always sure someone is speaking or just thinking. But the more I fell into the world the more I was able to gloss over it as a minor pebble in an otherwise smooth road.
I would absolutely recommend this book as an immersive read into a topic that causes many to flinch. Especially now, amid our own overflowing hospitals. Stay safe everyone.