BRIGID OF KILDARE is a skillfully-written well-paced novel by author Marie Benedict, writing under the name Heather Terrell. Like many such novels, it is a braided narrative. However, the present day (which flits back & forth between Dublin and Rome), is strong, mainly because the three characters – Sister Mary, Alexandria Patterson and Declan – are so compelling.
The past (of course), is the heart of the novel, and I enjoyed the fact that Ms. Benedict spent most of her time there, so that we could experience the spaciousness of life in the ancient past.
I said that this novel was skillfully written, and let me explain why. There are two critical points in the story arc of the relationship between Abbess Brigid and a Roman monk called Decius who is sent to spy on her. The first is when they first meet. This meeting is first told to us via Decius’ point of view, but much later in the novel, we hear it from Brigid’s point of view. Then there is the early morning encounter, when Brigid finds out that Decius has been reading banned texts in her scriptorium. Again, the first time we are told of this encounter is from Decius’ point and view, filtered through all the weight of his guilty conscience, because although he has been sent to spy on Brigid and send a report back to Rome damning her for her heresies, he finds this task more and more distasteful. The second time, we again hear it from Brigid’s point of view, and learn (of course) that she is perfectly well-aware that he is a spy for Rome.
And so these two characters – Brigid and Decius – come together to foil Rome’s plan to destroy Brigid’s abbey, and Ireland. Five stars.