Monday, February 23, 2015
The Hawk and the Dove
The Hawk And The Dove
By Penelope Wilcock
Published by Lion, February 20th, 2015
When we first meet Melissa, she is a lively teenager, desperately wanting to find her place in the wider world as well as already knowing her place in her beloved family. She loves all her family, but has a very special relationship with her mother, who holds the household together, surrounds them all with love and security and cares for her children 's bodies, minds and souls in equal measure.
Her mother is also an accomplished teller of family stories which go back hundreds of years to when their distant ancestor, Brother Edward, was a Benedictine monk at St Alcuin's Abbey in Yorkshire in the 1300s. When the abbot dies, we find that the monks are all agog with curiosity to see who will be brought to them to be their new abbot; it turns out to be a monk named Columba, who is actually a relative of Edward's, a young man whose name in the world was Peregrine - hence the title as a play on words. The unlikely young monk has turned out to be a competent, fair and accomplished abbot, but it is only when he is badly injured does the true nobility and depth of his character really emerge as he struggles in his day to day life in the monastery.
Each of the delightful stories is a closely-woven tale which binds the world of these long-ago monks with the modern world of Melissa and her family, encompassing family life, school, problems with friends and church life with the joys and difficulties of living in community in a monastery, learning to deal kindly and lovingly with each other no matter what vicissitudes may face them all. Each episode provides lessons both for the monks and for Melissa in a very Christian, non-preaching, gentle and loving manner; I found myself caring immensely about what happened to these monks and to Melissa and her family.
I can say with my hand on my heart that "The Hawk And The Dove" is engrossing, absorbing and utterly delightful. I was truly saddened and sorry to reach the end of the book and am delighted to find that this is only the first in a whole series. Clearly written and utilising compellingly vivid language, these would be ideal stories for older children, "tweens" and teens to enjoy and ponder, as well as for adults; the stories challenge our conceptions about mediaeval monastics as well as modern concerns about simple living, priorities, relationships and beliefs.
Well done indeed to Lion for deciding to re-publish this truly superb book for a whole new generation of readers to enjoy and to treasure. I know I will be cherishing it.