I’m a visual type so when I read a book I love to be able to imagine the scenes, the dialogue and the people, in my mind. Kenneth Stevens book ‘The Well of the North Wind’, sent to me to review by the lovely people at SPCK, is perfect for that! As well as novels Kenneth writes poetry and this book is almost a mixture of the two, with beautiful lyrical lines that just let your imagination run wild. Like this:
‘He walked slowly over the mossy grass and the bed of a small stream, up over the rise of a last hill and down onto a beach. A rubble of boulders first, then round stones as big as a fist, before smaller pebbles once more. The wind full in his face and the sea coming in like great white dogs, leaping and playing and breaking…’
I love his style, I can imagine myself there on that beach, smelling the salty air and feeling the spray. It’s the kind of book you can sink into and just drift away into another world.
So what’s the story all about? Well set in the 6th Century, in the last days of Saint Columba, it follows the life of Fian, a young boy who is adopted by Monks on the West Coast of Ireland, after he is seen drawing in the sand on the beach. He is trained by the soft and Fatherly Monk, Innis, to draw in the style and language of the Book of Kells. (The book of Kells is a 6th Century manuscript, thought to be one of the finest of it’s style featuring beautiful hand drawn illustrations and calligraphy) such as this:
From there Fian is taken to the island of Iona to work on the book itself under the careful eye of Colum (Columba). This is the moment he sees the book for the first time.
‘ They climbed the stone steps and he heard the wind raging at the tower. It seemed to shake as they went higher, as they curled the spiral towards a top they never seemed to reach. They said nothing; his mouth was filled with questions but always they fell to dust…
They stood over him, watching not the page but rather him. It was beautiful. What more could be said or thought? It was all he had dreamed of seeing, since the days his hand learned to draw in the sand of home, since first he heard tell of books like this.’
We follow Fian’s journey with the book, but also spiritually as he explores who God is in his own life. Whilst living with the monks he is immersed in their culture he never quite becomes one of them. We see him grow up, become captivated by a local girl and the story develops as his life continues a mixture of spirituality, creativity and love.
This is a beautiful and captivating story set amidst holiness and wonder, moss and heather. If you are a bit of a romantic, into spirituality, are a creative sort, or just fancy something a bit different, then this book is for you!