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The Song of Hild

Author Vibeke Vasbo
Publisher Sacristy Press £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781910519868

And now for something completely different. If you are looking for hagiography, you will be disappointed, equally if you are looking for something scholarly in church history. The Song of Hild is a historical novel built around the skeleton of Bede’s life of Hilda of Whitby; the flesh and blood have been invented (her words) by the author. Vasbo reconstructs the life of Hildeburh, married first to a Northumbrian nobleman, then to the pagan King Penda, finally to Christ as a nun and then abbess. There is significantly more action in the first half of Hild’s life, with a bewildering cast and series of battles – the map at the beginning of the book and the website detailing characters and locations help. Sex and violence seem commensurate with a tale set in Britain in the seventh century. Other reviewers remark how contemporary the themes of the book are; I can’t help thinking that there are at least a few instances where the author has read twenty-first century themes into a seventh century story: when the Abbess discovers two nuns in a lesbian relationship, I groaned. This book is not going to help you preach a sermon on Hilda of Whitby, but if you are looking for some light relief in your reading, I recommend it as a page-turner and a cracking good yarn.

GERTRUD SOLLARS

Novel