A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
(Disclaimer: Kirsty is both a friend and a fellow Book Fox …)
At the heart of The Royal Confessor are an elderly, ailing monarch, his dutiful but frustrated Jesuit confessor and the old man’s niece – a young widow living on her family’s charity. They’re an unlikely but intriguing trio at the centre of an equally unlikely but intriguing story about love and absolution.
The novelette (shorter than a novel, longer than a short story) is set in the middle of the 19th Century in the fictional Mediterranean principality of Santa Teresa.
Prince Fernand is Santa Teresa’s ruler, a veteran of the Battle of Borodino and a man so haunted in his failing years by what he did or saw there that he spends his days and nights in anguished but vain pursuit of mental and spiritual peace. He repeatedly summons Father Neri to hear his obsessively detailed confessions, but cannot or will not admit to the ‘sin’ which so consumes him, rendering the priest powerless to help.
Watching from the sidelines is Sophie, Fernand’s niece, a strong-minded and free-spirited young widow who married for love but now finds herself physically dependent on her relatives, and chafes against the restrictions of her present life. She alone in the family seems concerned for Prince Fernand’s increasingly fragile mental and physical health, and so it is that it falls to Father Neri and Sophie to find away to lead the Prince out of his self-inflicted darkness.
To say any more would be to wreck a thoughtful and beautifully written story with a twist in its tail.
In Father Neri the writer has created a beguiling and refreshingly different ‘hero’ … a Jesuit priest with some very human failings and an (at times) exasperated understanding of what makes people tick. He leaves us just as we feel we’re beginning to know him a little, so it’s good news that The Royal Confessor is the first in a series of ‘Father Neri’ novelettes, and I very much look forward to making his acquaintance again.
Kindle Edition. 2014. ASIN: B00JZT36I0. 44pp.