Saturday, June 6, 2015

Patrick: Son of Ireland

Patrick: Son of IrelandPatrick: Son of Ireland by Stephen R. Lawhead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I remember reading Mr. Lawhead's Merlin/Arthur books and enjoying them, so when I saw this at the library book sale, I snatched it up. I was not as enchanted by this one, but it was still an enjoyable piece of historic fiction.

First off, however, you should know that if you're looking for the story of how St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, this is not the book. This book tells the story of Patrick's early life, and how he came to be in position to convert Ireland. I'm sure it's 98% conjecture, but the details of his daily living lent a sense of reality to the story. And it's a pretty depressing story, mostly. It seems like the entire first half of the book was him getting a savage beating every other chapter!

When we first meet him, Succat (as he was called) is the son of a rich landowner, living the high life. He is cultured (Roman), educated, and nominally a Christian. Irish raiders come and he is captured and enslaved. He becomes a shepherd, living in a crude hut, always on the edge of starvation and always trying - and failing - to escape.

After being befriended by a Druid, Succat goes off to be a servant in the Druid house, and then becomes a Druid himself. During this time we see hints as to his spirituality and his future. We also learn that there is a sect of Druids who are Christian. (I don't know if this is historically accurate - I had never heard of Christian Druids.) During this period he also falls in love with the sister of one of the Druids. But he's still plotting his escape, and finally manages to get on board a boat back to Britain. There, he discovers his family estate in ruins, his family is dead, and all the towns also greatly reduced in population and general prosperity. He meets an old friend, who is now a priest, who convinces Succat to go to Gual with him. It is in Gaul that the next part of his life ensues - that of a Roman soldier.

Because he feels he has nothing else he can do, he joins the Roman army, as a mercenary. In his first battle he saves the life of an important Roman politician, who decides to take him back to Rome. Succat becomes part of Roman high society, and even falls in love again. But circumstances drive him back to Ireland, as he finally receives his calling to return.

It was interesting to read of his life in each of these very different societies. Some reviewers have said that he was an unlikable character, but I didn't find him so. He was stubborn, and didn't always choose wisely, but that seemed to make him more human. Others have complained that he was not portrayed as a "good Catholic" which makes me laugh. This was the very early years of the Church, and he lived thousands of miles away from Rome. I am sure that most Christians of that time would not measure up to today's version of Catholicism! (For one thing, priests could marry back then.) Others took umbrage with him being portrayed as a Druid. Even if you discount the idea of Christian Druids, having him be a Druid makes his 'conversion' to Christianity that much more profound.

Overall, it was an entertaining book, and I certainly enjoyed the portrayal of life during that era.

1 comment:

Rachelle said...

Sounds interesting, you have me intrigued......I would love to borrow said book, read & return :-) Rachelle