Saint Julian by Walter Wangerin Jr.

Saint Julian: A Novel by Walter Wangerin Jr. (HarperCollins, 2003), 240 pages [Note: At least right now, it’s available for $1.99 at Barnes & Noble.]

Saint Julian is the story of a fictional saint from what I take is the Middle Ages, although it’s never specified. It tells Julian’s life story, based on an old (more modern-day) priest’s research. Julian’s story starts off easy enough — he’s born to a good family, with a pretty high station in life. He learns all things eagerly, but he’s most interested in, and most naturally skilled in, hunting. Life gets more complicated, though, as he grows up.

First of all, I know a book is going to be good when it uses the word incunabula. In this case, it’s on page xxi, in the prologue: “Legends, pious chronicles, the handwritten incunabula related to Saints and to this Saint I read carefully, accumulating notes.”

The story (see hunting, above) is quite bloody, at least in places. This I didn’t love, but without it, this book would not be this book.

The writing is beautiful. Simple, but still thrilling.

The prologue and epilogue are stepped back from Julian’s story; here we see the priest who’s been drawn to Julian, who feels Julian’s story is his story. And in a way, Julian’s story is our story, too. It’s a story of the struggle, the meaning of the ordinary. It reveals hope, the fruit of one’s everyday walk.

I think I liked this book a bit better than Wangerin’s first novel, The Book of the Dun Cow, but I still remember that one fondly. They’re quite different.

Another quote, just because I loved it:

“And then it was her husband himself who moved softly through her chamber, attending to tasks otherwise accomplished by her servants: he combed her hair; he drew the curtains around her bed; he drove out the cat and the dog; he placed first a basin of water on the table by the wall, then a urinal bedside on the floor — and finally he took his leave mannerly, that his lady might take her rest merrily: she and their babe, whose name, indeed, was Julian.”

~page 25, emphasis mine

About the author
Walt Wangerin Jr. has written many books, including The Book of Sorrows and The Book of the Dun Cow.

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8 responses to “Saint Julian by Walter Wangerin Jr.

  1. oh dear. not sure I’ll enjoy this one.

  2. I like the words you shared here Hannah and the paragraph out of the book seems almost like poetry. I am going to see if my library has this, I would like to give it a try.

  3. I’m not sure. Sometimes too bloody can turn me off.

  4. Pingback: Walt Wangerin teaches: Hutchmoot keynote « Word Lily

  5. Pingback: Words from my reading | Word Lily

  6. Pingback: Words from my reading | Word Lily

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