"The Saint and the Fasting Girl" by Anna Richenda took me by surprise. It's historical fiction, a genre I don't normally read, but the story and the strength of the writing hooked me immediately. I could not put it down. I'm so glad Anna gave me the opportunity to read her stunning novel.
The story is set in the dark and violent Middle Ages during the reign of King Henry VIII. Sister Georgia is one of a group of mystical nuns residing in the Priory of Saint Isela in Yorkshire, England. She is in possession of a stone amulet, a relic of Saint Isela's that brings about visions to guide her. One such vision moves her to protect an unborn child, who she believes will play a part in Saint Isela's prophesied return. While the town burns at the hands of the King's henchman, Horley Romsfeld, bastard son of an earl, Georgia braves the flames to bring the mother and unborn child to sanctuary. The baby is christened and water spouts from the ground convincing the soldiers they are witnessing a miracle. They leave but the Priory is not out of danger. The archbishop of London, Philip SeVerde, is unhappy with the attention the nunnery is attracting. He destroys the Priory but not the faith and perseverance of the sisters. Georgia endures beatings and unbearable hardship to ensure the survival of the nuns and the fulfillment of Saint Isela's promise.
Although Richenda's story is fiction, her portrayal of the medieval time period is spot on. She captures the soul, spirit and social conditions with excellent period detail. The atmosphere is palpable. Readers will feel the heat of the flames and smell the stench of the living conditions. The plot is exciting, filled with drama, action and unexpected twists. The characters are vivid. Georgia is a strong heroine, although not always sympathetic as she takes some foolish risks. The men are truly villains in the worst sense of the word. Despite the religious setting, the book is not overburdened with religious doctrine and beliefs. The story is entertaining. I highly recommend you pick up a copy.
Visit the author's website at: http://www.annarichenda.com/
Publisher: iUniverse (June 8, 2005)
Paperback: 344 Pages