Kenneth Steven is a Scottish poet, author and illustrator responsible for works such as Island, Iona, Making the Known World New, Salt and Light, Columba, Imagining Things, Wild Horses, The Missing Days and Evensong. His children's book The Dog's Nose (published in Norwegian, English and French) went on to win the Norwegian Government's Award for Picture Books. Kenneth promotes creativity within primary and secondary schools, and teaches courses to adult writers' groups.
Set in fifth century Ireland, this lyrically timeless story tells of five-year-old Fian who finds solace from a difficult home life by drawing patterns in the sand. His gift takes him to Iona, where he becomes the 'fourth hand' on The Book of Kells, that great treasure of the Celts. Drawn into a community of laughter and stories, Fian encounters blue-eyed Mara, a girl who bears a terrible secret and, like Fian, lives her life between both desolation and joy. A charming novel brimming with beauty and heart, The Well of the North Wind explores doubt, faith and the brokenness of spirit that finally releases us into love.
If you loved and were inspired by The Shack, then expect the same feelings from The Well of the North Wind. With poignant lines such as "'When do you find God?' He whispered 'when in doubt?' The answer came back at once, as fast as an echo 'in the small things. In the voice of a child, in the curl of an otter, in the single moment of light on a day in the storm'" it is difficult not to feel moved.
Moreover, not only did I feel inspired spiritually but I also learnt about the Book of Kells - something completely new to me despite being a strong historical factor within Christianity. I don't read a lot of books that inspire, educate and entertain me.
However, the novel does require concentration: the main characters are monks with frustratingly similar names, it's easy if you're skimming the pages to get lost in the who's who and miss crucial parts of the story.
The main character, Colum, was easy to relate to. It was refreshing to know that, even in the Fifth Century, there were moments of doubt, sadness and confusion but also of love, joy and pride at our own accomplishments.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this novel and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a bit of light reading but also hoping to find some spiritual inspiration.