Jerome & His Women

Written by Joan O'Hagan
Review by Joanna Urquhart

Saint Jerome, who was commissioned by Bishop Damasus I of Rome to make a new, definitive Latin translation of the Bible by AD 390, is the moral and dramatic center of Joan O’Hagan’s new novel, Jerome & His Women. As the title indicates, the book’s main focus falls less on Jerome’s scholarly and translation duties and more on his relationships with the Christian community in the Rome of his day.

O’Hagan concentrates on the Roman women in his life, including his patron, Paula, and as the novel progresses, it proves a canny narrative choice: through his dealings with these women, the full breadth of Jerome’s problematic personality – both his prickly, argumentative side and, far more winningly, his inner tenderness and quiet introspection.

The Vulgate of Jerome was one of the most pivotal and important religious documents in the history of Christianity, and O’Hagan gives her readers a fascinating look at the man behind that controversial masterpiece.