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Review: Brigid of Kildare, by Heather Terrell

Pages: 235
Original publication date: 2010
My edition: 2010 (Ballantine)
Why I decided to read: Interest in the subject matter
How I acquired my copy: ARC through the Vine

Brigid of Kildare is a split-time novel. The story goes back and forth between Bridgid, a 5th-century woman chosen by Saint Patrick himself to convert the Irish into Christianity; and a modern-day appraiser of medieval objects named Alex, who is invited to Kildare to appraise a book that the nuns there own. The story is told as both a straight narrative and a series of letters written by a Roman spy named Decius, sent to Ireland to uncover possibly heresy.

The idea of the story is appealing, but the execution of the book is rather lackluster, I’m afraid. It’s rare that I complain that a book I don’t like is too short; but I thought that the story could have been fleshed out a lot more, especially the characters of Alexandra, who never comes across as more than a cold appraiser. Where’s her personality? Even Brigid herself wasn’t that appealing of a character, suffering from a lack of character development over the span of about 15 years. The author’s grasp of early medieval Christianity is sound, but I thought she resorted to clich├ęs in many places, especially when it came to the Irish people. Another reader here says that there’s not a lot of historical detail here, and I agree with their assessment. In fact, had the headings of the chapters not given the dates, I wouldn’t have known that parts of the book took place in the 5th century. The book might appeal to fans of religious fiction, but those looking for a good historical tale will be disappointed.


Daphne said…
Thanks for the review. It's too bad that the book didn't live up to it's potential. I think I'll take it off my list.
Gwendolyn B. said…
I'm disappointed. I had my eye on this book a while back. I think I would miss the historical detail too.
Bybee said…
I started thinking about Dr. Kildare, the old TV show starring Richard Chamberlain.
I agree the book is too short, however it is a fast easy read that covers significant concepts in a way that makes them easy to digest for people unfamiliar with them. After reading your review, I wonder if my own reading of the novel was informed and colored by prior readings in the culture and heritage of that space and time so that it seemed richer to me than it might to another. I found the plot worthy and the timeslips mostly not problematic. I enjoyed especially the focus and development around the concept of women in the church. I recommend also reading the review by Fionnchu:
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