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The Book of the Night (1984)

by Rhoda Lerman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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After reading Rhoda Lerman's Call Me Ishtar, I want to read any other book she has written. Here, in The Book of the Night, Lerman builds us a world of complexity and change, taking place at a 10th century Scottish island abbey, where even the 20th century intrudes.
A very young girl, Celeste, is brought there by her father, who she describes as very wise though also a madman, and who teaches her about alphabets, about myths, about evolution and thermodynamics, and who lets the monks on the island believe she is a boy while she grows toward womanhood and beyond. There is Celeste, the father, two other women, monks, village people, gods, sheep, birds, and a white cow.
Celeste tells most of the story, mostly in the present tense, but there is a scribe named Generous, who in shorter passages chronicles other happenings.
The abby is of the old native religion, which is struggling not to be replaced by the new faith from Rome.
The story is detailed, slow, restricted by place but expanded by thought, and I grew from wondering if it was worth my time reading, to becoming committed and fascinated at thirty or forty pages into this unbelievable book.
There are so many characters, and so many plots, that actors and actions sometimes blur together and make no sense until they reappear later. Google is very helpful.
Celeste is on a quest, and her story builds as she grows and succeeds and fails and moves us toward the conclusion of this strange, wonderful book. ( )
  mykl-s | May 13, 2022 |
Kalends A.D. 900, The Island of Iona. In a remote monastery on Dun Hi, the monks are caught between the old gods and the new rules of Rome. Beyond the spine of Britain, all is strife, plague, murder and heresy travel the land. A world of imagination in which the 10th Century exists simultaneously with the 20th. ( )
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rhoda Lermanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Furst, JaneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The Book of the Night is science fiction at its most challenging and allusive. On the island of Iona, where the tenth century co-exists with the twentieth, where the old Celtic gods fight against the rising power of Rome, where science and religion are locked in combat. Celeste, girl-child disguised as a boy, reaches puberty. The awakening of powerful sexual desire pushes her into the chaos that exists behind the apparent order of nature and the created order of human culture.
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