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Seeking Sanctuary by Frances Fyfield
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Seeking Sanctuary (2003)

by Frances Fyfield

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Lowbrow readers could expect to be on familiar territory with Londoner Francis Fyfield, winner of several crime fiction awards.

But no … Seeking Sanctuary starts with a blasphemous will and ends with an unrealistic resurrection, with a whole lot of rather harsh and cynical Catholic stuff in between — nuns, priests, articles of faith, vocations, loss of faith — to confuse the issue.

Evocative, sensitive, tangled, misunderstood relationships, a bleak yet not unsympathetic exposure of the mind-set of Catholic clergy in 21st-century England, this tale deals less with action than with reaction.

The terms of their estranged father’s will mean that sisters Anna and Theresa will be disinherited if they “sin”: defined “Incest, Cruelty and Treachery”.

Theresa, a postulant nun, and Anna, a lost soul, are perfectly secure until Francis, a beautiful young man who believes he is their illegitimate brother, inveigles his way into their lives, determined to seduce them into sin, so they will lose their inheritance.

Delicately told, the story revolves around gardens and the people who live, work and worship in them. “The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth, one is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” Other key elements include the Gospel of St Luke, several profoundly Catholic Latin prayers and Francis Thompson’s poem The Hound of Heaven.

Although well written, I found the contents of the book too fraught with quasi-religious psycho-babble of a Roman Catholic nature to stir me to much enthusiasm; the amazingly unlikely and miraculous conclusion was a nonsensical absurdity.

Sensitive and intelligent, improving rather than riveting, this book is both good reading, but hardly a “good read”. ( )
  adpaton | Nov 20, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0751533394, Paperback)

When Theo Calvert was driven out of the family home by his wife's cloying piety he had determined that his daughters would follow him, but in the face of the law, the girls' health and his wife's intransigence, he failed. But, if he lost the battle for their souls in life, he would make amends in death, craftily shaping his will to benefit them so long as they did not follow their mother's example. His daughters felt they had lost either way, especially Anna. She had promiscuously turned her back on her mother's teachings, but watched in horror as her sister Therese followed those same lessons and naively accepted the faith which Anna was certain had ruined their lives. In her rebellion against such blind belief she at first doesn't notice the worm in their midst when the convent where Therese has settled employs a new gardener. And when she does wake up to the danger she realises she may have left it too late to save their legacy and their lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:34 -0400)

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Anna and Therese are sisters whose father walked out on them, driven away by his wife's pious Christianity. Anna leaves the convent while Therese is still consumed by the life of duty and worship. A new gardener called Francis arrives and the other nuns are besotted by his charm and handiwork. But Anna is less convinced by his motives. The killing of a magpie is a dark, eerie, ominous sign of what is to follow. Anna tries to discover Francis's motives and realises that the answers lie in her family's past.… (more)

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