Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Abbess of Whitby by Jill Dalladay

Synopsis: The dramatic story of a seventh-century evangelist. Chosen as Eostre’s handmaid, Hild will serve the fertility goddess for a year before being wed. Her future is predictable―until King Edwin claims her as kin and she learns that her father was murdered.

Her first love is given a command in Edwin’s forces and vanishes from her life, wed to her sister. The court is baptized, ending the old religion and Hild’s role. Life looks bleak. She can’t stop wondering who killed her father.


Suspecting Edwin, she challenges him, only to be married off to safeguard his northern frontier. Struggling in a loveless marriage, she is intrigued by the Iona priests making pilgrimages to spread Christ’s love. When home and family are lost in Oswy’s sack of Edinburgh, she finds herself in enemy hands, but meets the charismatic Aidan. Inspired and guided by him, she builds communities to live and teach Christ’s love. She attracts followers. Even her old enemy, King Oswy, entrusts his child to her, gives her Whitby, and seeks her help to reconcile divisions in his kingdom. She never ceases battling against old superstitions resurrected by storm, plague, and solar eclipse, but at last she receives a bishop’s blessing―from a man she trained herself.

Writing about a woman in the Dark Ages, is no easy feat, as record keeping, especially when it came to women, was rare indeed. To recreate the path of a woman's life requires a painstaking piecing together of facts along with the author's imagination. In The Abbess of Whitby, the author has succeeding in blending fact with fiction to recreate Hild of Northumbria's life. With its stunning cover, Hild's story is a compelling one. As the daughter of the king's nephew, she is chosen as a handmaiden to the queen. She loses favor when she questions the king regarding whether he had a hand at poisoning and murdering her father. The king marries her off to a very difficult, hard man. Her life is miserable until she learns about Christ and becomes a Christian. 

This was an easy read, albeit a little slow at times, but this is typical for biograhical novels. The characters are based on real, colorful persons who lived the historical events described. I have never read a book set in the 7th century, so found it fascinating to learn about this era. More than anything else, this is the story of a fascinating woman who overcame the rigid rules and hardships women faced to gain respect and admiration from the people. A grand tale beautifully told!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.