The Sin Eater by Alice Thomas Ellis (1977), 192 pages
Set in Wales. A strong female lead. This book is about being an outsider; church; class; family. It felt like a unique book. More words that spring to mind in the reading: tentative, melancholic, bucolic.
A quote (from page 70):
Ermyn watched him, thinking what a pity it was that there was no war for him to excel in. He was quite wasted in peacetime in his dull civilian clothes and his dull civilian job. He would look magnificent in uniform, vermilion, gold and indigo — bring tears to the eyes dying gallantly at his post. Men were made for war. Without it they wandered greyly about, getting under the feet of the women, who were trying to organise the really important things of life. When they couldn’t make war men made money — and trouble and a dreadful nuisance of themselves. Ermyn had seen Rose sigh with exasperation when Henry dusted his shoes with the kitchen cloths, and Angela had said quite openly that she couldn’t bear to have Michael around all day …
The book isn’t nearly as anti-men as that sounds, though. This mainly gives a feel for the lovely writing. The language used is thrilling.
I laughed while reading this book; the characters are quirky and funny, in a way that reminds me of myself at points.
Ellis wrote The Sin Eater to voice her concern and frustration about the state of Christendom and the Catholic Church.
I really liked this Common Reader edition, published by The Akadine Press (1998). The book cover bears no text — no reviews, no synopsis, no author information (The author information is inside.), and this was refreshing. I often don’t allow myself to read the cover text (well, other than title and author, etc.) because it too frequently gives away too much of the story. Since I’d already determined I wanted to read this book through other channels, it was nice to be able to get right into the story itself. (I posted about various covers on this book here.)
The Sin Eater is one of the books on the Image Journal Top 100 list I’m gradually making my way through.
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