Brigid of Kildare by Heather Terrell
Fifth-century Ireland: Brigid is Ireland’s first and only female priest and bishop. Followers flock to her Kildare abbey and scriptorium. Hearing accounts of Brigid’s power, the Church deems her a threat and sends Decius, a Roman priest and scribe, on a secret mission to collect proof of Brigid’s heresy.
As Decius records the unorthodox practices of Brigid and her abbey, he becomes intrigued by her. When Brigid assigns Decius a holy task—to create the most important and sacred manuscript ever made—he finds himself at odds with his original mission and faces the most difficult decision of his life.
Modern day: Alexandra Patterson, an appraiser of medieval relics, has been summoned to Kildare to examine a reliquary box believed to belong to Saint Brigid. Hidden within the sacred box is the most beautiful illuminated manuscript Alex has ever seen. But even more extraordinary is the contents of the manuscript’s vellum pages, which may have dire repercussions for the Catholic Church and could very well rewrite the origins of Christianity.
What if there was a book that pre-dated the Book of Kells?
I didn’t know anything about Saint Brigid when I was reading this, so I liked that I was discovering the book and Brigid herself as I read along, sort of like Alexandra was.
I liked the fact that there were three points of view. One was from Alexandra’s perspective, the second was Decius, in the form of letters he was writing to his brother, and the third was an omniscient narrator, as if it was narrating the biography of Brigid. They weren’t confusing at all, despite moving backwards and forwards in the story as a whole.
Interesting thing to note: instead of this book involving matters of pagan vs. Christianity, it was more like Christianity vs. Christianity. Rome wanted Ireland and Brigid to run the Church in a specific way, but Brigid defied those rules. She incorporated bits of the pagan rituals into her mission to convert her people. She eased them into it. Decius, who was meant to report back on all this heathen stuff, found himself converting too in a way. Brigid here is portrayed as a gentle person just trying to spread the word of Christianity in the way that she thinks is right. Granted, it might seem a bit too forced that this happens, but it works here.
For such a skinny book (256 pages), there was a lot of narrative and information packed in there. I’m not sure what else to say, other than I enjoyed it and I would definitely recommend it to others.