It is inevitable but when one reads Rachel Mann’s debut novel, one will be reminded of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. This is not to mean that The Gospel of Eve is a carbon copy but, like Tartt and Daphne du Maurier and Iris Murdoch, Mann manages to mix both the sacred and the profane deftly. Like the authors mentioned one can also take Mann’s novel as a straight up Gothic thriller or something which provides food for thought.
To give away The Gospel of Eve’s plot would be churlish of me, for it is much more fun for the reader to discover it’s little twists and turns. The non spoiler version is about a young woman commencing her studies for the priesthood and once she is there she becomes enraptured by the mysterious Evie and then initiates herself with a group of other seminarians. The more she knows the group, the more she discovers who they really are.
Redemption plays a huge part in the book, the novel itself is in the form of a confession, all the characters are fascinated by medieval religious practices, which includes elaborate methods of atoning for one’s sins. Throughout The Gospel of Eve there are snippets about Christian martyrs who also suffered for their faith and achieved the ultimate redemption by dying.
The Gospel of Eve also focuses on feminism within the Anglican church. The book takes place in the 90’s, a time where the synod approved a legislature where Anglican women could be priests. This new law is still not fully accepted at the seminary the main protagonists studies at so there is a battle. Furthermore the titular Gospel of Eve (an apocryphal book written from Eve’s perspective – yes there’s a double meaning) has a part to play as well. There is a lot to uncover and Mann’s accessible, yet clever writing style makes it a pleasure to do so.
To say I enjoyed The Gospel of Eve is an understatement. It is an addictive read. All the usual motions of a great book happened to me : I could not put it down, I carried everywhere, I had to turn each page to find out how the story would develop, I kept on thinking about it. I am still thinking about it. The Gospel of Eve is excellent. You will not read a book which manages to merge deep thoughts with first class storytelling. Read it
Many thanks to Rachel Mann and Darton, Longman & Todd for providing a copy of The Gospel of Eve