Thursday, August 18, 2022


Haven by Emma Donoghue
8/23/22; 272 pages
Little, Brown and Company

Haven by Emma Donoghue is a highly recommended literary historical fiction set in seventh-century Ireland.

In the Clanmacnoise Monastery, a scholar and priest called Artt has a dream where he feels that God has called him to set out with two monks to found a monastery isolated from the sinful world. The two monks he feels were chosen to be his companions on this sacred mission are young Trian and old Cormac. The three set out on a small boat with meager supplies down the river Shannon into the Atlantic. In the ocean, they travel until they find a steep, rocky, bare island that is home to tens of thousands of birds. Artt declares it their new home.

What follows is a tale of survival, zealotry, early Christianity, Irish mythology, obedience, and faith. The island it is set on is off the southwest coast of Ireland and is known as "Skellig Michael" (Stars Wars Episode VII where Luke was). This is a beautifully written and descriptive novel that captures the spare, pious lives of the monks as they follow Artt's increasingly extreme demands which he feels are holy instructions. The actual plot is quite simple and the conflict is found in the life Trian and Cormac are living as they follow the extremist pious and stringent leadership of Artt.

The story had me totally engrossed in it and the hardships they faced. I was invested in the characters and hoped Trian and Cormac would revolt, would understand that their devotion, their calling was to Christ and not a man. Then the big secret was revealed and it totally changed the evolution of the story and the confrontation in the final denouement. The ending was satisfying as it was hoped for, yet disappointing because the secret revealed was the impetus for it.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Little, Brown and Company via NetGalley.

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