Monday, August 31, 2015

SUN DANCING by Geoffrey Moorhouse

Some books keep you tied to the page unwilling to take a break, waiting eagerly to discover the next point.  This, unfortunately, was not one of those. This reviewer took far too long to finish the book. While the format was interesting at times, the latter part felt slow and encumbered with a bit too much detail seemingly unrelated to the immediate point at hand.  The first section attempted to tell the story of life in a Medieval Irish monastery through historical fiction.  It traced the early beginnings of Skellig Michael, a small outcropping of rock off the coast of Ireland where a limited group of monks led a rather austere existence, to the ending of its active existence and the eventual migration of the order to the mainline in the matter Medieval era (588 AD - 1222 AD).  Enlightening to students of Christian monastic existence was the revelation of the harsh and demanding nature of the early Celtic practice.  The Irish not only withdrew from the world, they attempted in this isolation to create a superior form of spirituality and closer proximity to the divine.  The Celts also betray a certain mixture in their life and practice of their pagan preexistence. 

The second part of the book served as a kind of extended series of footnotes on various details in the first section.  The book's interest and appeal, in the opinion of this reviewer, would have been enhanced by relegating some of the more detailed information to a real footnote and keeping the articles a bit more general in content.  One struggle the reader encounters is that after working through the first part you begin to forget some of the details of the first story by the time you get to the latter articles.  Again, an interesting format, but not quite effective in keeping the book moving. 

As an aside, the title seemed like an odd choice for the content.  One article at page 245 is devoted to the "Dancing Sun."  It simply did not seem central enough to the narrative to warrant its use as a title. 





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