Wednesday, November 22, 2006


by Melvyn Bragg

One finds treasure in the strangest places. Take the small English library here on our small campus in the sticks of Yunnan. Compared to many libraries, it's a pitiful thing. It holds maybe two hundred books, mostly classics abridged or rewritten for foreign language students and children's books. For an adult native English speaker, it's quite boring. There are, however, a handful of grown-up books here. My wife, in her desperation for reading material has perused them. For the most part, she was unimpressed. This book, however, she enjoyed and recommended. Credo is a tale set in 7th Century England. It's essentially the story of a couple, Bega and Padric. As the story opens, Padric is a guest in the hall of Cathal, a king in Ireland. Padric himself is a prince of the kingdom of Rheged in Britain. Bega is Cathal's daughter and, at the start of the tale, Padric's pupil. Both Padric and Bega are strong, intelligent and idealistic; capable warriors and pious Christians. There's a budding romance between the two, but neither one of them has the maturity to realize it. The dawning realization of their mutual attraction permeates the background of the first section of the book, like the beginning overture of a symphony. the following book is a work of art. There's a gripping plot, compelling characters and a milieu that feels genuine. For me, the biggest appeal of the book is that Mr. Bragg captures what it's like to be a Christian. Every soul in the book, whether pious or impious, struggles with their faith. The good characters have their sinful side and the evil ones worry about facing the throne of God. Of course, as a Lutheran, sometimes I wished I could give these good Catholics a lecture on grace, but overall I identified with these characters. Credo is a great book. It's biggest flaw is that it belongs to the English library. I regret that I have to put it back on their shelf rather than my own. Ah, well, that's what bookstores are for.
LibraryThing link


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