Set during 7th Century England when Christianity is finding a foothold in England. When different groups of monks hold differing attitudes. A world where Christianity and ancient beliefs clash. A small boy, Winwaed, is given to a Monastery straddling two Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
A world where the power of spirits and prayer is primal, unfettered by the rationalism of today.
We begin with the oblate as an old man retelling his story, giving his confession. We never know to whom. We don't know the oblates name until sometime into the story. That's all part of the mystery.
We see the world through his eyes as a small child. This is fascinating and powerful stuff. We see first hand life in the Monastery; we see the confusion of learning to live and work in silence, Winwaed's growing relationship with the hermit , his meeting a young girl. All heady interactions.
Later we see Winwaed's understanding of the world influenced by the revelations of his father. This brings conflict for Winwaed. Whom should he believe, his natural father or his monastic fathers? After all he has known and trusted the latter for longer than the fleeting moments he is given with his real father. And yet the serpent of uncertainty enters Winwaed's garden of Redestone.The story is littered with precious moments of contact with the hermit. Moments that we see through the child Winwaeds's eyes and, and moments when the dialogue shifts so that we see Winwaed seeing himself as a child and then as the adult recounting theses experiences through the medium of his confession. Moments like viewing Redestone from above and understanding what that encompasses. Moments when he and through him, we, can smell the dankness of the Forest and hear the buzz of the bees or the yip of the fox, or feel the warmth of the sun. That special experience of looking as directed by the hermit at prayer as part of the river Meolch's flow, a focusing meditative coming into being. We see that. At that time the child cannot.
This is an amazing recounting of monastic life that delves into the nature of God and of prayer and of our very human responses to both. The story pulls you in and captures life in such a telling way that you the reader seamlessly become part and parcel of the life reflected.
The Oblate's Confession is an unexpected gift.
A NetGalley ARC