Book Cover

Cuthbert of Farne

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What readers say:     

‘In this glorious novel we meet not an ascete who has turned his back on the world, but a man deeply involved in the social and political conflicts of his day and dedicated to peace and reconciliation. From his rocky abode, lashed by the bitter salty North Sea winds, in the company of seals and seagulls, and with little in the way of food or physical comfort, he is a warrior engaged in a rare kind of struggle. But this is also a tender story of love and longing and belonging in the new Christian communities of seventh-century Northumbria. You will want to walk that coast, breathe that air.’ Vibeke Vasbo, author of The Song of Hild, no.1 Danish best-seller

‘Tiernan has a flair for psychological insight and an imagination that fills in the gaps in the historical record without ever doing violence to what is likely. She is also possessed of a vivid visual imagination, and an illuminator’s eye for small details. This is a highly pleasurable and intelligent piece of historical fiction’ . Fiona Hook, Church Times

‘Whether you are looking for an exciting historical novel or are interested in the northern saints, this is the book for you. It is fast-moving but the author has taken no liberties—I couldn’t put it down.” —Lilian Groves, Senior Guide at Durham Cathedral

Reading your novel was a moving experience, as I travelled to the Inner Hebrides, with a visit to Iona and Staffa.
The other day I was in Durham, and revisited the cathedral with a new sense of what faith is about.
Although I am not religious (though raised as a Dutch ‘Remonstrant’), the novel of Cuthbert of Farne speaks to me very directly of the worship of God.
Violent history forms an intriguing setting, still relevant today.
Everyday life and people come alive. Dialogues never sound strained. The main characters – women and men – are captivating.
Landscapes are beautifully presented. I love the descriptions of nature, evoked, sometimes, as a divine invocation.
‘Light. There was nothing but light. The low winter sunshine lit up the waves lapping around the harbour in a dazzling shimmer.’ (p. 272)  Gijs Wallis de Vries

‘I have just finished reading your wonderful book ‘Cuthbert of Farne’. It is a long time since I enjoyed a book so much. It was fascinating to read about that colourful period in the history of Northumbria and beyond, and you bought it to life so vividly’ Julie Jones

‘I’ve just finished reading Cuthbert of Farne and wanted to say how much I loved it. I was so engrossed and read it over a couple of days’ David Bayne.




Place of Repose: St Cuthbert’s Last Journey

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“This is a gripping novel of the “can’t put it down” kind. The facts are largely drawn from the monk Simeon’s History of the Church of Durham (1096). What gaps recorded history has left, Mrs. Tiernan has filled with imagination and flair.”
Keith Atkinson

“I loved the way that the book manages to talk about spiritual matters without sacrificing drama and felt that it was really moving portrayal of the way that a great saint has effect upon all around them. The fact that St Cuthbert, now resting in Durham Cathedral, is still exerting this kind of influence today makes this a book which a great many people should find inspiring.”
Jane Clark

“Katherine Tiernan brings to life a period of less well-known British history that is often bypassed in the smokescreen of King Alfred’s more obvious adventures in southern parts during this period. Beautifully written, the writer has a native’s sensitivity to this brooding land.”
Christopher Ryan

Review by Julia Stoneham for the  Historical Novel Society

Place of Repose is Katharine Tiernan’s second novel in a trilogy focused on the period in the history of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria which was, by 875 AD, being relentlessly ravished by the Danes.

Forced by necessity to flee from the monastery of Lindisfarne and bearing with them the precious relics of St Cuthbert and the Lindisfarne Gospels, the monks set out to find a place of sanctuary for their treasures. What follows is an astonishing account of determination, bravery and single-minded devotion to their cause, in which a fascinating political evolution is also taking place.

Katharine Tiernan’s prose is as clear-minded and unpretentious as it is beguiling. She is intensely immersed in her story and its location and captures a sense of time and place in an unpretentious and engaging style. The vision of that wet, damp mizzle and the sensation of chill winds contrasting with the rare bliss of roaring fires, makes blanched skin tingle. During the course of this epic undertaking, we explore the characteristics of those most closely involved in it and whose lives evolve within its complications and are inevitably changed by them.

I found it hard to retain the names and the “who is who” of such a plethora of people whom the reader needs to keep in focus. I also felt this work may narrow its readership appeal by overstating the history at the expense of the drama. It would be a pity if this prevented some readers from draining it to its dregs, as it is a delightful and attractively produced publication.

Fiona Hook reviews
the second instalment of a monastic trilogy

THE first of Katharine Tiernan’s trilogy based on the life of St Cuthbert fleshed out the historical record to build a convincing picture of the saint through the eyes of three women on whom he had a significant influence in his lifetime (Books, 28 June 2019). Her second, set nearly 200 years later, tells of the seven-year search to find a last resting place for the saint’s remains.The year is 875. The north of England has been invaded by the Vikings, and the Danish King of York, Halden Ragnarsson, is ravaging the Christian kingdom of Northumbria, burning churches and monasteries and slaughtering the monks. Seven Brothers are chosen from among the Lindisfarne community to carry the saint’s bones and the Lindisfarne Gospels to a place of safety.The story’s source, Simeon of
Place of Repose: St Cuthbert’s last journey
Katharine Tiernan
Sacristy Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70Durham’s A History of the Church of Durham, names four of the bearers, but tells us nothing about them. Tiernan, with her customary skill, gives all seven names and stories. There’s Edmund, crabbed master of the scriptorium, Franco, the physician, and talkative Ceolfrith, who loves to entertain. At the centre of the book is the novice Stitheard, with his strange light eyes, given to the monastery by his starving family in exchange for two cows and a cartload of corn. We empathise with his spiritual struggle as he falls in love with a Norse farmer’s daughter and renounces his vows to marry her.The story is a present-tense narrative, and unrolls like a film. It’s finely imagined. Lapwings sing, timbers crack, and there is a terrifying shipwreck. The saint is always present, directing events through dreams and miracles. His body heals a Danish slave of fits. Later, he leads the Abbot of Carlisle to have the youth elected as King of York, the Abbot as his right-hand man.In the background, history’s great events unfold. Alfred defeats the Danes, and a treaty is signed, but the exchange between Stitheard and his abbot, Aedwulf, as he asks permission to marry, is also significant. “The Norse are farmers like our own people,” Stitheard says. “The Norse,” Aedwulf thinks, “like our own people. This is how peace comes.”Fiona Hook is a writer and EFL teacher.