The Sword and the Miracle

Melvyn Bragg, Author Random House (NY) $25.95 (541p) ISBN 978-0-375-50003-9
Set in mid-seventh-century England, the latest historical novel from British TV personality and celebrity biographer Bragg views the struggles between the Roman and Celtic churches through the prism of the love affair between a prince and the woman who would become St. Bega. Reluctantly betrothed to a brutish neighboring overlord, young princess Bega calls off the arranged marriage when her fiance rapes and mutilates one of her servants. After escaping from the subsequent murder and mayhem she takes the veil, and her path of devotion takes her to the historic Synod of Whitby, where, against her counsel, the Celtic tribes agree to submit to the Roman version of Catholicism. In the meantime, Bega is pursued by gentle, doomed prince Padric as he fights to protect his domain from his tyrannical cousin Ecfirth. Despite some gnarled, florid prose and a tangle of dispensible subplots, Bragg's characterizations of the era's religious figures, actual and otherwise, are imaginitive and illuminating. The heart of the tale, though, is the long-suffering relationship between Bega and Padric, and while Padric rarely rises above the level of a romantic cliche, Bragg's superb portrait of a heroic woman torn between marriage and religion distinguishes this book in the crowded field of early medieval chronicles. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 978-0-517-28453-7
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7861-1265-4
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