Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Through an Icon's Eyes by Grace Conti

Brilliant from start to finish – you must read this hauntingly beautiful story!


Set in 1440s London, Italy and Greece against a turbulent political background enflamed by religious divisions, the unfolding narrative of Benedict Paston and Annie Carter's relationship encompass memories of heresy, murder, loss and betrayal.

Benedict an erstwhile sundial maker, is lost to the world. His self-imposed exile, both emotional and physical, in a remote Greek monastery is relieved only by the task of painting an icon under the monks' instruction. Their hope: to save his tortured soul. As the hours of devotion mark the progress of one day in his monastic cell, an escape from Benedict's self-destructive isolation is brokered by the image of Mary Magdalene, guiding him back to his previous life and a new understanding of the events that have led him to Greece
Annie, a young widow beset by visions and facing death, finds that she too has an unusual guide and confessor as the light and shadows mark the progress of an English day in a very different cell…

My Review

I get very, very excited when I discover a novel, so wonderful, so enjoyable, that I include it on my list of lifetime favourites. Set in the 15th century in an ancient abbey, Through an Icon’s Eyes by Grace Conte fits that bill exactly!

This is a beautifully written story, so engaging, so engrossing, I could not put it down. One of the main characters is a partially-completed icon of Mary Magdalene who comes alive in the painter’s mind acting almost as a conscience for him – guiding, questioning, enlightening. Bit by bit, the story spirals into spectacular events of heresy, murder, lust, and betrayal that culminate into an utterly satisfying, completely shocking ending. Extremely real, three dimensional characters that are ever evolving enchanted me from the very first page. Each page is ripe with wisdom, teases with mystery, and swirls the reader into a hurricane of emotions.

Grace Conti is extremely talented and the beauty of her prose is a joy to read. The author is donating all the proceeds to breast cancer research until Christmas 2011. That in itself makes it worth buying and I encourage everyone to do so. Better yet, the book would make a wonderful gift. Brilliant from start to finish – you must read this book.

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