I picked this book up on a whim. I'd finished my book and needed something to read so ended up browsing the bookshelf of the thift store. The title attracted me. I admit the reading was a bit slow at first, but I got wrapped up in the story and finished it in about 24 hours (quite atypical for me). I am so glad I didn't give up. The ending is so bitter-sweet that it brought tears to my eyes.
Set in the beginning of Christianity in Ireland, the story of Qwynneve is enchanting. Born of a wise and wild woman, she learns the ways of the earth and healing plants at her mother's side. She choses to apprentice with the Druid, Giannon, to learn the mysteries of language. In the end, she chooses to become a nun of the Order of Saint Brigid to transcribe learnings from far away places.
Through this, you witness the change in the status of women, reverence for the earth, and the use of power as Ireland moves from a land of Druids and other pagans to Christianity. The story spoke to me and brings me to reconsider some of my learned beliefs about my faith and the manner in which I live it every day.
I am particularly struck by one sentence found near the end......"I would live in a world full of Christ-like humans, but not one full of Christians, may God forgive me."
This is one woman's story of her journey from a Druid to a nun while still holding onto some of the "old ways." It was an interesting view of a time when Christianity was taking over Ireland from the Pagans, many times by force.
This is one of the best books I have read this year--It is lyrical and thought-provoking. You transported to this mystical age at the cusp of Christianity and find yourself rooting for this introspective heroine. Gwynneve struggles as she tries to reconcile her innate wisdom and deep and ageless spirituality with a new religion which carries the recognition from dignified and learned societies, but often fails to speak to her conscience and heart.
Title: Confessions of a Pagan Nun
Author: Kate Horsley
ISBN: 1570627193/Shambhala Publications
Protagonist: Gwynneve, a nun and scribe
Setting: 500 AD, the convent of St. Brigit, County Kildare, Ireland
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.
Hauntingly beautiful. Masterfully written. Showing the personal struggle for truth whether it came from the druids or Christians and the heartfelt desire to do good. A very thought provoking book. The voice of the main character is very well done.
Hard reading for one not currently enrolled in a class where this book would be a mandatory read. Reminded me of St. Augustine's Confessions. Unfortunately, when I finished his book all that I could remember was his blaming himself for everything that was wrong or bad, and praising God for anything that was good. I found both books to be it a bit pendantic and had to force myself to continue reading them.
I stuck with the Pagan Nun because of a couple of the reviews and because I find religious history an interesting subject. The transformation from a Pagan to a Christian Nun ~~~ I think I would rather be the Pagan. In relating the Pagan Nun as an intelligent thinking women, Horsley portrayed what could have been a "real" person.
This book reminded me of Pope Joan a bit. Women's lives at this time period were so physically and emotionally difficult. The main character had so many doubts and questions about her instincts and emotions because they conflicted with the obviously slanted views of the newly emerging Catholic Church. Gwynn wanted to be open and inspired by the new doctrine, but it pained her to see how the monks and the wealthy would often say one thing, and do the opposite. Not my favorite, but an important piece of history.