The Land of Angels


In the late 6th century, a monk called Gregory, later to be Pope, sees two blond, blue-eyed boys for sale in Rome’s slave market. He enquires further about them, and finds that they are Angles from England. To him, they seem to be angels, not Angles, and later on he sends the timorous Augustine to England to convert the pagans to Christianity.

Meanwhile, bright young Bertha, a Frankish princess, is sent to England to be the bride of heathen King Ethelbert of Kent. Bertha is a Christian, and she brings her own priest with her. The king allows her freedom to worship, but does not allow his children to be baptised. The chances for making conversions are limited, but Bertha finds that there are already other Christians in the Kentish kingdom. They are British and have been cut off from Rome for over a hundred years.

Sampson gives a vibrant portrait of both the people and the places included in the book. She writes with great vividness about her subject, which ensures a constantly engaging story. There are dangerous and swaggering warriors, cautious and thoughtful priests, and a pragmatic and wise queen. Sampson masterfully draws them all together to make the story of Augustine’s bringing of the Christian faith to England an absorbing and rewarding read.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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