“The Church isn’t a cult for a few heroes. It is the whole of fallen mankind redeemed.”Evelyn Waugh, Helena
Author: Evelyn Waugh
Genres: Historical Fiction, Classics, Christian
Pages: 225 (Kindle)
My Rating: ★★★¾
Read: 1/9/2023 – 1/18/2023
I hadn’t heard of Evelyn Waugh or any of his books until a couple of them were mentioned during a homily. Helena piqued my interest the most given the subject matter and a line that was quoted. I’ve heard of St. Helena by name but didn’t know much about her story.
The author stresses at the beginning of the book that this is very much a fictionalized take on Empress/Saint Helena pointing out that not much is known about her life. Here, we imagine her as a young girl and follow her journey into marriage and royalty, motherhood, and later her conversion to Christianity through the influence of her son Constantine. Much later in her life, she sets out to find the relics of the Holy Cross.
I really love the concept of this book, but the writing falls flat for me. It’s both slow and fast-paced. The time often jumps to another mid-chapter with little to no explanation of how someone or something gets from A to Z. Despite being titled for the main character, we don’t get to see a lot of internalization or depth to Helena.
While I didn’t love this as much as I’d hoped I would, it was still an interesting read. It’s left me curious to read a few of Evelyn Waugh’s other novels.
Likes & Dislikes:
What I liked:
- The exploration of a saint whose life has little history available.
- Having the story take place from childhood to old age.
What I didn’t like:
- Extremely slow-paced for a book that skips over and is vague about so much.
- It lacked emotion.
The vagueness and lack of emotion were definitely the biggest disappointments of the book for me. It felt like I was reading an abridgment. I’m hoping other Evelyn Waugh novels don’t follow the same pattern.