Tuesday, January 19, 2016

536 (2016 #2). The Abbess of Whitby

by Jill Dalladay

This historical fiction work is based on the real Saint Hilda (or Hild) of Whitby, who lived c. 614–680 in what is now present-day England.  Much of her life is covered in The Ecclesiastical History of the English written by the Venerable Bede in 731 AD.

According to author Jill Dalladay, who is a classicist, historian, and Latin teacher who lives in Whitby, Bede does not speak of Hild's life between the ages of 13 and 33.  Dalladay invents a husband and child for her, surmising that a woman of royal blood would have been married off to seal an alliance, but by 33 Dalladay has her widowed.

This section of the book, as well as Hild's early years, was the most interesting to me.  Dalladay does a good job of painting a picture of what life was like in early Medieval England.

Not being very knowledgeable about this period of England's history, I had a harder time following all the names and locations in the book, even with a family tree, maps, and list of characters in the front of the book.  The last third of the novel, after Hild becomes a nun at age 33 and later an abbess, was least interesting to me.  It was far too long and could have been trimmed considerably, in my opinion. This section dragged for me and took forever to finish reading.

Nevertheless, if this is your favorite era in history, you should enjoy this novel and learning more about this saint.  The author provides additional sources for research in her note at the end of the book.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be added to my university library's collection.]

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