Before he became the sainted church father of Christianity, Augustine of Hippo began a love affair with a young woman whose name has been lost to history. They were together for over thirteen years, and she bore him a son. This is her story.
She met Augustine in Carthage when she was just seventeen years old. She was the daughter of a mosaic-layer. He was a student and the heir to a fortune. They fell in love, despite her lower station and Augustine’s dreams of greatness. Their passion was strong, but the only position in his life that was available to her was as his concubine. When Augustine’s ambition and family compelled him to disown his relationship with the her, X was thrust into a devastating reality as she was torn from her son and sent away to her native Africa.
A reflection of what it means to love and lose, this novel paints a gripping and raw portrait of ancient culture, appealing to historical fiction fans while deftly exploring one woman’s search for identity and happiness within very limited circumstances.
Continue reading for my review of The Confessions of X. I’ve also got an extra copy of this beautiful book to give away to one of my readers.
I’ve had a couple of raised eyebrows when I’ve mentioned the title of this book to people. Admit it; you think it sounds a little racy too, don’t you? When you think about it, however, it’s the perfect name for it. Augustine’s own autobiography was called Confessions. It’s also a book I’ve never read, so I had to do some hasty cramming before reading what sounded like an intriguing novel.
I found it difficult to read the first chapter of The Confessions of X, which contains the thoughts of an old woman, but her autobiography began in chapter two and the book became much more interesting at that point. The narrative as a whole contains plenty of similes and there are many pages without any form of speech. But it is a fascinating portrait of life in ancient Carthage and northern Africa, and also gives glimpses of life in Italy at the end of the Roman Empire. Yes, there are mentions of intimacy between the couple but it’s important to recognize that this was a culture very different from our own; one where being a concubine in a monogamous relationship was more acceptable than being married to someone of unequal status. It does appear that Augustine would’ve legally married X if her lower status hadn’t prevented it. She definitely influenced him in his thoughts regarding life.
The beauty of the story only became apparent to me toward the end of the book, and the tears were rolling down my cheeks by that end. X sacrificed everything when she left Augustine and their son, a sacrifice the future bishop of Hippo likened to the sacrifice of Christ. It would seem that neither became romantically involved with anyone else, but instead loved each other for the rest of their lives.
Thank you to Thomas Nelson, BookLookBloggers, and The Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of The Confessions of X, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
I have an extra copy of this beautiful book, The Confessions of X, to give away to one of my readers. To enter, leave a comment via the box at the bottom of this post. I’ll announce the winner via Twitter (@ProverbialReads) on Saturday, 05 March, 2016.
Have you read The Confessions of X? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)
Publication Date: 26 January 2016
Page Count: 304