Monday, December 01, 2008

REVIEW: Confessions of a Pagan Nun

Title: Confessions of a Pagan Nun
Author: Kate Horsley
ISBN: 1570627193/Shambhala Publications
Historical Fiction
Protagonist: Gwynneve, a nun and scribe
Setting: 500 AD, the convent of St. Brigit, County Kildare, Ireland
Rating: A+

First Line: I, Gwynneve, a sinner quite uncultivated and the least of all the faithful and utterly despicable to many, appeal to Saint Brigit or the goddess Brigit, whatever it is her wish to be called.

This little gem of a novel is quite rare because it succeeds on so many levels: story, characterization, historical detail, insight, wisdom, poetry, and elegantly crafted prose. Can you tell I liked it?

It begins with a translator's note telling us that this is a codex discovered in an archaeological dig in County Kildare, Ireland. We are then immediately transported into the world of Gwynneve, a woman who was born and raised a pagan, who studied to become a Druid, who--after the disappearance of her teacher--converted to Christianity and became a nun at the Convent of Saint Brigit. There she did what she loved best: transcribing ancient texts. Gwynneve sees the world through her unique perspective of being both pagan and Christian. She tells of the strengths and weaknesses of both philosophies. In turns blunt and poetic, she is such a vivid, fully fleshed character that I saw the waves of green hills, I felt the cold and the damp and the hunger. I was in the Dark Ages when Christianity was trying to gain supremacy over all other faiths.

This was the first book by Kate Horsley that I've read. It won't be my last.


  1. You got me with the title and the cover. This book sounds great.

  2. I've been tempted by this book ever since I first heard the title. This definitely sells me. I'm glad to hear you liked it so much!

  3. I hope you two do get a chance to read it. Just be warned: the writing is so good that you may want to put on an extra sweater and pair of socks!

  4. Sounds like a great read! I'm loving historical fiction more and more these days.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  5. I read this a few years ago and liked it a lot. I love historical fiction, and being a pagan, it definitely called to me!

  6. Oooh. It's Ireland, it's druids, it's archaeology: what more could I want???

    Jumping right onto my wish list.

  7. Hi Cathy,
    I am very glad you have signed up as my blog's follower. Thank you!
    It has also given me a chance to discover you book blog and I really like it. I'll visit it often.
    And thank you for the review. I will definitely add it to my library. It seems like just my knid of novel.

  8. This is so my kind of book! I must add this one to my wish list. Or maybe I should just go ahead and buy it . . .

  9. Wonderful review! I found your review via the Literary Feline and have added this book to my list!


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