The Book of Eve by Meg Clothier published on 2 March 2023: Beatrice is the convent’s librarian. For years, she has shunned the company of her sisters, finding solace only with her manuscripts.
Then, one carnival night, two women, bleeding and stricken, are abandoned outside the convent’s walls. Moments from death, one of them presses something into Beatrice’s hands: a bewitching book whose pages have a dangerous life of their own.
But men of the faith want the book destroyed, and a zealous preacher has tracked it to her door. Her sisters’ lives – or her obsession. Beatrice must decide.
The book’s voice is growing stronger.
An ancient power uncoils.
Will she dare to listen?
My reading experience:
Right from the first page, I found this story compelling. Set in the late medieval or renaissance period, it’s the story of Beatrice, Sister Librarian and a book that through some strange fate, lands in her hands.
Living in a convent on the outskirts of the city, the Sisters are an eclectic group of religious Promised Sisters, safekeeps, helpmeets, novices, and Poggio. Sister Beatrice has been charged with running the library following the death of Sister Sophia who had trained Sister Beatrice in preparing copyists and the acquisition of books from Tomis the bookseller.
Following Fat Tuesday, Tomis delivers a book to Beatrice that seems to be blank. At first the book could be a palimpsest, but it quickly becomes clear that it has magic of some sort.
The language that the author has used is transportive and from the first words it situates the reader in the centre of this story, observing from the corners of the room; a window into the busy, regulatory, restricted, often tense, dynamics of this order of nuns.
The story lays bare their thoughts and fears, not just of “Carnival night” (Mardi Gras) but also of the Sisters place in the Convent, and the world; it is a man’s world after all and they are living in The Father’s Convent at their grace. But the book has a different tale. What if … what if it is The Mother’s house and they have power too? What can women achieve if they band together, hold each other up? Believe in each other?
The author has taken a section of society imbued with mystery , and made this the centre of female empowerment. The book is a play on the Voynich manuscript- that indecipherable manuscript shrouded in speculation and myth – very cleverly portrayed here as a glittering, magical text, and something that “dials the magic up to eleven.”
I more than recommend The Book of Eve by Meg Clothier, this is one that will stay with you.