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Knowledge of Angels

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Overview

This "disturbing and beautiful novel of ideas" (Ursula K. Le Guin) is enacted by a wide variety of characters on a Mediterranean island before the Reformation: a saintly monk whose faith is sorely tested; a wild, flesh-eating child who is captured by mountain shepherds and taken to the cardinal prince of the island; a castaway who swims ashore to a very strange welcome. Peopled by peasants, servants, shepherds, priests, nuns young and old, Knowledge of Angels sets off a wonderful fireworks of attitudes toward God...
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Overview

This "disturbing and beautiful novel of ideas" (Ursula K. Le Guin) is enacted by a wide variety of characters on a Mediterranean island before the Reformation: a saintly monk whose faith is sorely tested; a wild, flesh-eating child who is captured by mountain shepherds and taken to the cardinal prince of the island; a castaway who swims ashore to a very strange welcome. Peopled by peasants, servants, shepherds, priests, nuns young and old, Knowledge of Angels sets off a wonderful fireworks of attitudes toward God and poses a hundred unrelenting questions. Is a tolerant engineering wizard who can speak to the priests of the Church in Latin but who will not confess to a belief in God truly a heretic? Must he undergo punishment, or will he undermine the faith of those who are testing his? Will the wolf-girl, who has never heard the name of God spoken, turn into a full-fledged human being, or will she always be at heart the same thing that she was when found? The story unfolds in unexpected and thrilling ways. As Susan Cooper, the Newberry Medal winner, has written, "Its characters are haunting and its story will not let you pause to take breath." Laid in a medieval time of unquestioning faith, and conveyed in simple but evocative prose, this book explores the conflicts between tolerance and moral certainty, between loving kindness and murderous cruelty. It has all too much relevance to our contemporary world.

Set on a Mediterranean island before the Reformation, the novel involves two outsiders--Palinor, a man found adrift at sea, and Amara, a young girl raised in the mountains by wolves. Rich with natural description, these two stories are woven together in a compelling narrative that questions both faith and the nature of humanity.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the Middle Ages, a cardinal on a remote Mediterranean island tries to determine whether the appearance of a criminal and a girl raised by wolves are acts of angels in this novel, shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
Library Journal
In her first book for adults, veteran children's author Walsh deals with the quandaries that result when human try to come to grips with the divine. Set on an island off the coast of Europe during the Middle Ages, her novel revolves around a ``wild child'' rescued form wolves and a shipwrecked prince rescued from the sea only to be accused of heresy by the Inquisition. The prince, an atheist, will not compromise his beliefs to satisfy his accusers. The child is set up as a test case; if she, untaught, shows any awareness of God, the prince is condemned. Walsh's simple, direct prose paints pictures as bright and detailed as those in a medieval Book of Hours, and the plight of Prince Palinor, rescued from drowning only to face death by fire, is compelling. Readers who enjoy novels of ideas will find this a satisfying choice.-- Beth Ann Mills, New Rochelle P.L., N.Y.
School Library Journal
YA-A gripping, grim morality tale that's hard to put down and even harder to forget. It is set during a time of religious fervor on a Mediterranean island peopled with a wide variety of well-developed characters, including a lost prince, a child raised by wolves, and the priestly ruler. The island's proximity and ties to Rome are evident in the lives of the townspeople, clerics, nuns, monks, and even the servants. Christianity in its narrowest guise predominates, and the two islanders who are ``unknown,'' the wolf-child and the lost prince, are ultimately judged by these constricting standards. There are many likable characters, and there is much theological philosophy discussed in intriguing detail, mostly by a monk who contemplates what angels know and how they know it. There is also, however, a captivating plot. Be aware that this is far different from the spate of angel ``stuff'' that is out today, a darker but more encompassing description of ``the knowledge of angels.'' Although the ending is slightly disappointing, getting there is a compelling and thought-provoking journey, and well worth the trip.-Susan H. Woodcock, King's Park Library, Burke, VA
From Barnes & Noble
Peopled by peasants, servants, shepherds, priest, & nuns young & old, this "disturbing & beautiful novel of ideas" (Ursula Le Guin) sets off wonderful fireworks of attitudes toward God & poses a hundred unrelenting questions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553374759
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/1/1995
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.21 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2005

    My favorite book...

    Picked for a book club discussion that lasted for hours, Walsh poses questions about how a wolf child or a stranger can prove the existence of God. It is powerful and haunting- the ending, ironically shocking and bittersweet. I highly recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2008

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