A little novel based on the life of the historical character named Godric, one of the first international merchants or capitalists we have records of in Europe way back in the 11/12th centuries, and of Anglo-Saxon origin. He travelled between the British Isles and the Continent, as far as to Spain and Rome or Jerusalem. The author has him live to be 105 years of age.
It is better to be aware of the kind of literature one is about to find here, so as not to be upset immediately without trying and give up what could be an interesting and nice read. The author tells his life, and in his own 11/12th century words: raw, sort of stream-of-consciousness, made up of impressions rather than linearly connected experiences. His speach is colloquial and intimate, spiritually loaded. Rememberances trigger emotions, which trigger impressions, sadness, joy, penitence, regrets... Godric's life is divided in two halves: the first, his family and his going away to make fortune, his adventures in the world, his travels, his world of sinfulness to sum up; the second stage of his life is his becoming a hermit, a saint (or so he is considered, though he does not admit so). Many times he comes back to the present, to his fellow-monks who keep him and love him, so we fluctuate constantly back and forth in time. It may seem a bit chaotic if the reader is not put under notice, but that -perhaps- is the charm of the book: the realism that this seemingly incoherent narrative brings forth, as it comes straight from the man himself, a very old man of the Middle Ages. How else could his voice sound? There is a poetic rythm all along the book, it's felt in the length of the sentences, the pauses, musicality of the words chosen. Appropriately so, I guess. Hard to figure the speach of such a man. A 20 or 21st century voice would not fly, so to speak.
I, myself, took some time -being unaware- to appreciate the richness of this testimony, the candidness and warmth of the narrator's voice. One has to read slowly, getting the picture by the sound of the words. The main achievement of this book is that it made an improbable and vague 12th century man come to life. If saints were, up to now, something of a myth to you, this little book makes you think twice. Saints were -and are real- whenever somebody really loves God, however imperfect that person may be. And we know that nobody is perfect, not now, and not then. Godric knows full well how imperfect he is. And that's precisely the quality that makes him a true saint, that and his great love for Christ. We take Socrates for the wisest man that ever was precisely for the same reason: because of how little he admitted to knowing.