The Dark Ages, England: a warrior gives his son to a monastery that rides the border between two rival Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Growing up in a land wracked by war and plague, the child learns of the oath that binds him to the church and forces a cruel choice upon him. To love on father, he must betray another. The decision he makes shatters his world and haunts him forever. This quietly exotic novel places us compellingly in another time, another place, where chieftains fear holy men, holy men fear the world, and prayer has the primal force of fire. While entirely a work of fiction, the novel's background is historically accurate. In the midst of a tale that touches the human in all of us, readers will find themselves treated to a history of the Dark Ages unlike anything available today outside of textbooks and original source material.
|Publisher:||Secant Publishing LLC|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)|
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Powerful nurturing historical fiction! VERDICT: As a young boy growing up in a Benedictine Abbey in 7th England, Winwaed discovers the powerful world of prayer and the challenges if offers him, when his ideas of fatherhood become conflictual. If you expect to be enriched in your inner begin by reading, this historical novel will do it. As you may have seen in my post on my 2014 favorites, I chose The Oblate’s Confession as my favorite for the category Historical Fiction – in print. The novel is set in 7th century England, a fascinating period as Benedictine monks have only recently arrived in England (in 597), and there are conflicts between their Roman view and the view of monks who were already in England much earlier than them. There is still also a large mix of paganism and Christian practices. It is also a time with bouts of plague. At the time, it was not unusual for young children to be donated to a monastery where they were educated and usually remained as monks. Winwaed is one of them, an oblate, as is the technical term. One day, his own father Ceolwulf asks to see him. He tells him about the story of their family, how he came up with receiving this first name, and then asks the boy to pray for Bishop Wilfrid‘s death, in retaliation for things that happened to their family. One great layer of the book is to see him grow as a young boy, with hardly any concern, intent on obeying strictly every rule, and then little by little growing out of innocence and getting caught in guilt and complicated thoughts as he discovers a broader complex world around him. Page 158 has a fascinating passage on how one leaves the world of childhood when one enters the adult world of secrets! But another important father figure enters his life and helps him cope innerly with all that’s going on, as he is asked to go every week to bring food and supplies to a hermit on a close-by mountain. This offers an extraordinary layer to the book, as you see Winwaed discover the spiritual world, grow in it and experience it in all its power. The old monk introduces him to what we would call today “centering prayer“, a very contemplative way of prayer, where one learns “to be present to God’s presence” (quotation from one of my own spiritual mentors), in silence and peace. Not unrelated to this practice, the hermit also teaches him (in the monastic way of teaching more through experience than through words) how to notice beauty around him, to observe nature, to read animal tracks –the passages with the young foxes or the view from the crag are so good, I felt I was really there! The book is also rich with all the elements of monastic daily life, including prayer and manual work, silence, sign language, vows, etc. The book is extremely contemplative in its writing, and it is really full of gems. No wonder it received a starred review by Kirkus! If you are curious for a different reading experience, I highly recommend it to you. Plus you will have the added advantage to be introduced to profound wisdom, still very relevant today and more than ever necessary for us to remain sane in our daily whirlwinds.
This book was well-written, but not my type of book.