Who Was Saint Patrick?
Scheduled for publication on St. Patrick's day, this study of the elusive patron saint of the Irish is unique in at least one respect. Thompson (emeritus professor of Nottingham University, England) relies solely on evidence gathered from Patrick's own writingstwo books in Latin: Epistle to the Soldiers of Coroticus and Confessionto form a biography. He eschews the legends and apocrypha, many amusing, that have over the centuries embellished the meager facts known about Patrick, yet Thompson strives to appeal to general readers as well as theologians and scholars. Terming Patrick ""a bad writer but . . . not an out-and-out crackpot,'' he poses credible hypotheses about Patrick's origins as a Briton, his enslavement in County Mayo, his delayed rise to the bishopric and his unusual reaching out to the non-Christian barbarians of fifth-century Ireland. An intriguing story filled with unanswerable questions but highly readable and satisfying. Photos not seen by PW. History Book Club selection. (March 17)