KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS by Jill Paton Walsh

KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An exquisitely mounted, immaculately designed fable in a jeweled medieval setting that pierces to the heart of an ancient scholarly/spiritual dilemma: Should one live within a world of faith with its invisible perfections--or only in the world as it is seen and sensed, of things as they are? The author portrays the conflict with venerable theological dialectic and an inventive use of the enduring myth of the wolf-raised child. Quoting St. Augustine to the effect that ``morning knowledge is different from evening knowledge,'' the gentle scholar Benedix explains the problem to Severo, the cardinal prince of their Church-owned island: in the knowledge of angels, morning knowledge deals with ``the nature of a straight line; evening knowledge is knowing that no line in the world is really straight.'' Severo has come to the monastery for help in converting an avowed atheist, Palinor, a stranger from a far country--handsome, highly intelligent and companionable. Severo is determined to save Palinor from a heretic's death. Meanwhile, a wild creature raised by wolves is captured, and Severo sends her to a convent to be tamed--but with the stern stipulation that she hear nothing of God. Will then the denial of God-knowledge in a child of nature--proving that knowledge of God is revealed and not innate--save Palinor? While the wolf child is (outwardly, at least) ``humanized,'' the cardinal, the famous scholar, and the atheist meet in a paradisiacal setting of greenery, fountains, and colonnades to discuss philosophy and theology. But looming, gathering savagery and horror, is the Inquisition, about to bring death to one and, for others, the absence of angels. At the close, the wolf girl sees--without understanding--the start of an inevitable conquest. With timeless personalities, grounded firmly within the hot windstorms of an on-going human conundrum: a brilliantly crafted, haunting tale--the author's second novel for adults (after a mystery, The Wyndham Case, 1993).

Pub Date: March 28th, 1994
ISBN: 0-395-68666-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1994




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