Gritty, melancholy and dark, Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley was a haunting read. Set in Ireland around 500 A.D., our main character, the tiny Gwynneve, has the rare gift of literacy. It’s her job to copy passages of the Bible in the convent where she lives. But in the dead of night, she secretly pens her autobiography. This is a story of a 360 degree journey, as Gwynneve was raised pagan, earnestly tries to live as a devout Christian nun, but ultimately realizes she cannot rid herself of her pagan roots and beliefs.
The book alternates between chapters of Gwynneve’s autobiography and life at the corrupt convent, including the sexual exploits of the abbot with one of the nuns, and the grave of an infant, which is mysteriously—and disturbingly—being repeatedly unearthed. In her autobiography, we learn about Gwynneve’s mother, who taught her about nature and plants in her childhood, onto her apprenticeship with— and unrequited love for— Giannon, the moody and ambiguously homosexual druid. When Giannon is kidnapped, Gwynneve squanders her life, living like a savage in the forest to search for him, until she finds her way to the convent. This book contains some graphic descriptions of illness, death or violence that the reader may wish to be wary of.