As evidenced by her successful novel The Dead of the House
, Hannah Green possessed an acute awareness of early adolescence, the time in life we call coming of age. It's no surprise that Green became entranced and eventually dedicated to a 12-year-old girl, who was known as Saint Foy. Betrayed by her father in 303 A.D., the French girl called Faith was tortured and beheaded for her refusal to worship the pagan goddess Diana and renounce her devotion to Christ.
Green narrates in the first person, recounting her reaction and fascination when she first traveled to Conques, France, and saw the golden statue of Saint Foy (with the girl's bones embedded in the statue's heart). Although pilgrims from all centuries and all parts of the world have paid homage to Saint Foy's statue, Green had not anticipated the deep visceral reaction she would have when she first beheld the little saint. "It is a shrine," she writes. "And in some mystic way it suggests to the mind's eye more strongly than any imagined likeness could the presence of Saint Foy herself as she was, with her young fresh skin and the radiance, the life, in her face, the light, and as she is: bone and spirit come to God."
This is a three-layered, masterful piece in which Green offers a biography of this young saint and the influence she's had over the centuries, a profile of the highly unique village that hosts her statue, and finally a memoir of Green's own spiritual epiphanies born from this saintly encounter. --Gail Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
A form of perfectionistic paralysis seems to have gripped Green, author of the critically acclaimed 1972 novel The Dead of the House, who spent more than a quarter-century writing this evocative account of her romance with a French village and its martyr-saint. Like the masonry and artwork of the antique Proven al chapels Green describes, her words bear the imprint of long, loving attention to detail. In the 1970s, Green became entranced by Conques, a hamlet in the south of France, and its shrine dedicated to Foy, a 4th-century Christian girl martyred for refusal to sacrifice to a pagan deity. Foy's relics, encased in a golden and jewel-encrusted statue, made Conques a medieval pilgrimage center. Green explains, with stunning sensitivity for a modern writer, what devotees felt when they stood in the saint's presenceDa mixture of awe and intimacy that exerts power still. Green also captures the rhythms of life in a French village. By the end readers feel they know her neighbors, can taste the village's special foods, and can see the churches and sacred stones Green contemplates. One can quibble with certain aspects of the bookDthe descriptions of flora and fauna become tedious, and Green idealizes peasants as only "big city" writers are capable of doing. Yet Little Saint rises as close to perfection as hagiographic literature ever has. The author, who has passed away since completing the book, should rest easy. (July)
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