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By Moy McCrory
London: Flamingo Ė An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 1991
ISBN: 0-00-654438-X 2898 pages

Bob Corbett
June 2016

I canít remember how it was I came to hear about this novel, but I do know I was attracted enough on that hearing, whatever it was, I hurried to buy the book. As I began to read it I was at first very intrigued and fascinated by the relationship between a hidden painting that was being discovered beneath a painting that had hung for some years on the convent schoolís altar, and the parallels being made between the situation of the emerging ancient painting and the lives of a nun and student at this girlís college in Ireland in the 1960s.

The slow and careful uncovering of the old painting, actually with the intentions of simply cleaning it that soon led to the discovery of a hidden painting of a monastery in Ireland in the 10th century and the reader is soon lead to see parallels between the lives of 20th century nun at the convent, Sister Cecile, and one of her students, Siobhan Doolin and the lives of those in the painting that is being uncovered and a tale of a remote monastery of nuns in the early 900s.

The 20th century nun, Sister Cecile, is learned, very interested in art, and simply fascinated by the accidental discovery of this painting hidden beneath a painting which hangs on the schoolís chapel altar. Further, there is an intriguing student, Siobhan Doolin, who, under the influence of Sister Cecile, begins to think of entering the convent herself and who is also quite interested in the painting.

The reader follows the story of these two women, the process of the uncovering of the mysterious painting, and the quite fascinating parallels of the sort of developmental issues that face both the two women of the 20th century and those of the nuns and others in the 10th century.

I found the idea and the beginnings of the story to be quite fascinating. However, as I read along I became less and less satisfied. Author Moy McCrory seems much better at whetting oneís appetite for a fascinating mystery than on carrying through with connections and events which suggest there really is any connection of significance. Further, along the way I found there to be a great deal of excess information that did little to either advance the story or to reveal these connections. I think I could have found a more satisfying version of the novel had it been edited a great deal from its 289 pages to a novel of perhaps 180 pages. I never became convinced there was ďstory enoughĒ for the length of the novel.

I had never heard of the novelist, Moy McCrory, and Iím not sure just how it was that I discovered the novel and chanced to read it. Iím not sorry that I read it, it wasnít that bad, but I did find the story to be much too unclear, especially the sections on the lives of the 10th century nuns, and too brief on the lives and ways of both the 20th century Sister Cecile and her interesting student Siobhan Doolin and her struggles to come into adulthood.

However, I just canít bring myself to go so far as to say that I would recommend the novel to others, yet, at the same time, Iím not so dissatisfied that I would recommend skipping the work. Perhaps the most positive I could be is to say, there is a good deal of mystery and history of the early period that is attractive, but a great deal of material that just didnít seem to me to advance the story or to illuminate the situation of the early period in a way that was much connected to the story in the 20th century.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett