The Age of Miracles

Catherine MacCoun, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $18.95 (318p) ISBN 978-0-87113-312-0
First novelist MacCoun has come up with a potentially intriguing plot, done some research on 14th century England, the era in which her historical novel is set--and produced a disappointing book. In relating the story of Ingrid Fairfax, consigned to a convent at age four and now, at 18, apparently endowed with the power to heal--giving rise to a reputation as a living saint--MacCoun adds the traditional trappings of sexy romance. Naive and innocent, so pious she wears a hair shirt, Ingrid succumbs immediately to the advances of troubadour Jacques Brigand des Coeurs (aka former serf Jack Rudd), whose broken ankle she has healed. When Ingrid leaves the convent, facing ``a life of penance for a night of pleasure,'' her mild crises of moral conscience are no more credible than her camaraderie and beer drinking with three Oxford students who frequent the tavern where she is now a serving girl. In fact, in her lack of credible anguish in breaking her vows, and her meek responses to verbal and physical abuse, she seems at times half-witted. The reappearance of Jack in Ingrid's life, her arrest for witchcraft and Jack's sacrifice on her behalf create some tension. But the novel is fatally undermined by its pedestrian prose: MacCoun makes sporadic attempts to use language appropriate to the period, but lapses all too often into the most banal contemporary vernacular, with grating anachronisms: ``I must not make a scene''; ``Now here's the good part.'' The romance between the troubadour and the runaway nun is simply run-of-the-mill commercial fare. 35,000 copy first printing; $35,000 ad/promo; Doubleday Book Club selection; Literary Guild alternate. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Hardcover - 978-0-517-05801-5
Hardcover - 978-0-09-910961-7
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