A New Heaven and a New Earth: St Cuthbert and the Conquest of the North


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Book Details

Rating: ★★★★★

Format: Paperback (308 pages)

Publisher: Sacristy Press

Date of Publication:

ISBN: 978-1-78959-125-5

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In 1069, William the Conqueror’s brutal reprisal brings untold suffering to the people of Northumbria, and its people are in revolt against their new rulers. Caught between the Northumbrian rebels and their new Norman masters, the Community of Saint Cuthbert at Durham is struggling to survive.

But the mysterious influence of the Saint brings aid from the furthest corners of the kingdom—and from the least likely of his followers:

  • Thorgot, an Anglo-Norse adventurer from Lincoln on the run from the Normans
  • Edith, the repudiated wife of Durham’s dean
  • Aldwyn, a visionary monk of Winchcombe

Extraordinary twists of destiny draw the three together to bring about a new order from the ashes of the old. By the time the foundation stone is laid for a new cathedral at Durham, their lives have changed for ever and the survival of the shrine is assured.

A gripping story of violence, heartbreak and redemption that brings the trilogy of novels about Northumbria’s warrior saint to a dramatic conclusion…

She has done it again! In the third part of her trilogy Katharine Tiernan casts her net vigorously across a familiar, sweeping landscape which, religiously, historically, geographically—as well as individually for her cast of characters—is ruthlessly challenging.

Her prose is, as usual, lyrical and unpretentious. Research is used convincingly and with the lightest of touches.

The breadth and content of this novel would appear daunting, but Katharine Tiernan takes it on in all its detailed complexity, approaching it with the confidence of a writer who is absolutely at one with her subject.

Julia Stoneham, Historical Novel Society

Tiernan has an unusual ability to project herself into the heads of her characters. We hear their different voices: Edith’s chatty exuberance, Thorgot’s earthiness, and Aldwin’s more Latinate cadences. We see Thorgot’s spiritual struggles as he has to learn humility as a novice, and Edith’s black misery at her husband’s rejection.

Tiernan wears her considerable erudition lightly, and the reader is guided gently through the transformation from a Saxon Church to one more directly controlled from Rome. But her writing is also very much anchored in the physical world. Birds sing, food has a scent and flavour, and the wind is bitingly cold. This longer and more complex work marks Tiernan’s debut as a significant historical novelist.

Fiona Hook, Church Times

To borrow from the BBC Radio 4 book programme, this is ‘a good read’ which sets the story of Cuthbert in the historical events of the time, and reminds us of the importance of saints, even in death, in the lives of Christians during this period of history. While this narrative can stand on its own, I enjoyed reading the first two books to gain a fuller picture of the growth of the cult of Cuthbert.

Gill Hall, Rural Theology

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