THE LION AND THE CROSS by Joan Lesley Hamilton


Email this review


Saint Patrick tells his own story--in a mostly lively, often anachronistic, ultimately unsatisfying novel. The son of rich Britons during the decline of Rome (fifth century), kidnapped and sold as a slave to a petty Irish king, involved in the mysterious local politics and constantly battling out his personal war with God, Patrick is delighted to escape from Eire but ultimately realizes he must return to convert it--with which decision the book ends. Himself is evil-tempered, ill-mannered, charmless, and tactless, as rude to God as to his fellow man, standing out Like a sore shamrock among the rather jolly pagans he feels obliged to Christianize. And his missionary shenanigans draw him into much primitive derring-do--from hanky-panky among the druids to Roman civic council wrangles, vicious Gaelic queens to Saxon pirates. Hamilton's Old Eire, however, is an unconvincing locale and not at all Gaelic: Irish and cockney accents intrude, Patrick speaks of ""commitment"" and ""lifestyle,"" while Bronze Age peasants abruptly discuss the social system in the terms of a modern pamphlet. (""You defied a system of justice which has taken the learned men of our race a thousand years to perfect."") And more seriously, neither Patrick's charisma nor his saintliness is projected through all that hardworking, down-to-earth characterization. Often intriguing in its irreverent goings-on--but finally lacking in resonance, uplift, or illumination.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1979
Publisher: Doubleday