A Sin of Omission

A Sin of Omission

Author Marguerite Poland
Publisher Envelope Books £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781838172039

This is a superb, highly readable if challenging novel. It is set in the Cape Colony of South Africa in the late nineteenth century and tells the story of two brothers: Malusi (Stephen) Mzume and his elder brother Msamo. Born into village poverty Malusi wanders outside the village into the bush in search of food to be found by a priest, who undertakes to take both brothers into his church and to train them as priests. Stephen is then sent in 1869 to St Augustine’s Missionary College in Canterbury. He is out of place there as a Black man in a white society and on returning to his homeland he finds himself equally displaced from his own former tribal culture. This is a story about colonialism, racial discrimination of the worst order and the risks of moving outside one’s own culture. It is about the failure of inculturation, the unbending imposition of religion upon a tribal culture and the sin of omission – the failure of the church hierarchy to support the very people trained to reach out to their own people. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by MIKE ABBOTT

Novel

 

New Heaven and a New Earth

New Heaven and 
a New Earth

Author Katherine Tiernan
Publisher Sacristy £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781789591255

Subtitled ‘St Cuthbert and the conquest of the north’, this fine historical novel is the third of a trilogy which traces the influence of the Celtic saint on the development of the English church in Northumbria.  Set in the years after the Norman conquest, the narrative portrays an age of violence and turmoil through the eyes of three historical characters: the monks Thorgot and Aldwyn – two committed men of contrasting character; and Edith, the wife of the Saxon Dean of Durham.   Following the conquest there was tyranny and bloodshed in the north, as William the Conqueror’s Norman soldiers ruthlessly laid waste to the land.  As one character remarks, ‘the four horsemen have been loosed upon us – death, war, famine and pestilence.’  From the title onwards, there are many allusions to the book of Revelation, as tension mounts between the Saxon heritage and the materialistic new Norman bishops and rulers – representing highly contrasted strands of Christian thought and practice.  Ultimately, as Norman rule is consolidated, the vision of a new heaven and a new earth takes shape as the foundations of Durham Cathedral are laid. Strongly recommended.

Reviewed by ELIZABETH STEPHENSON

Novel