The Book of Kells, the beautiful Gospel manuscript created by early Celtic Christian monks, serves as the tableau upon which this story unfolds. Its characters swirl around each other much as the illuminations on the manuscript do, crossing paths, separating, and then intersecting again throughout the world of their lifetimes.
The story of how The Book of Kells came into existence springs from the tale of Connachtach, the monk who is the driving force behind its inception. He sets in motion the need to find lapis lazuli, a necessary ingredient for making blue ink. This quest is championed by a monk who survived the Viking raid on Lindisfarne, and a young man who is a potential future monk from Iona. Their expedition takes them from rocky coasts to oceans, forests, mountains, and deserts of sand. Wonder is mixed with terror as they travel.
Interwoven with their tale is a parallel story of Connachtach’s sister and blind niece. Their quest starts as a hope for a miracle cure, but rapidly becomes a perilous journey. The two women face deprivation and violence, but also resilience and kindness along their way. Interspersed throughout these travels comes a growing understanding of the value of a monk’s life and the work that flows from it. The Book of Kells comes to truly represent collective sacrifice, reverence, and ultimately love.
This lyrical novel offers a tantalizing glimpse of a world that existed long ago. Readers will be awed at the ability of humans to persevere against enormous odds in order to create works of great art that have endured for centuries. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Celtic history.