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The False Virgin

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AD 848.Bernwyn of Lythe, the young daughter of an ealdorman, spurns marriage and chooses to remain a virgin dedicated to Christ. When she is found murdered in the chapel where she kept her nightly vigils, it is thought that she has fallen victim to the Viking raiders who are ravaging the country and the butterflies found resting on her body are taken to be a sign from God. AD 848.Bernwyn of Lythe, the young daughter of an ealdorman, spurns marriage and chooses to remain a virgin dedicated to Christ. When she is found murdered in the chapel where she kept her nightly vigils, it is thought that she has fallen victim to the Viking raiders who are ravaging the country and the butterflies found resting on her body are taken to be a sign from God. But what if Bernwyn was not all she seemed? Could the saintly deeds attributed to her have been carried out by someone else and the people have set up a shrine to a false virgin? Throughout the ages, St Bernwyn comes to be regarded as the patron saint of those suffering from skin diseases, and many are drawn on pilgrimage to her shrines. But from a priory in Wales to the Greek island of Sifnos, it seems that anywhere that St Bernwyn is venerated, bitter rivalry breaks out. So when a famous poet is inspired to tell the story of the saint, perhaps it is little wonder that he finds himself writing a satirical piece on the credulity of man.


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AD 848.Bernwyn of Lythe, the young daughter of an ealdorman, spurns marriage and chooses to remain a virgin dedicated to Christ. When she is found murdered in the chapel where she kept her nightly vigils, it is thought that she has fallen victim to the Viking raiders who are ravaging the country and the butterflies found resting on her body are taken to be a sign from God. AD 848.Bernwyn of Lythe, the young daughter of an ealdorman, spurns marriage and chooses to remain a virgin dedicated to Christ. When she is found murdered in the chapel where she kept her nightly vigils, it is thought that she has fallen victim to the Viking raiders who are ravaging the country and the butterflies found resting on her body are taken to be a sign from God. But what if Bernwyn was not all she seemed? Could the saintly deeds attributed to her have been carried out by someone else and the people have set up a shrine to a false virgin? Throughout the ages, St Bernwyn comes to be regarded as the patron saint of those suffering from skin diseases, and many are drawn on pilgrimage to her shrines. But from a priory in Wales to the Greek island of Sifnos, it seems that anywhere that St Bernwyn is venerated, bitter rivalry breaks out. So when a famous poet is inspired to tell the story of the saint, perhaps it is little wonder that he finds himself writing a satirical piece on the credulity of man.

30 review for The False Virgin

  1. 4 out of 5

    Laura Jane

    Another collaboration by a group of historical novelists where they each relate a short story from the Middle Ages through to modern times developing a mystery around a common theme. In this book the story begins with Beornwyn of Lythe, murdered in a chapel in 848 AD and beatified as a saint as it is thought she died defending her virginity from Viking invaders. However, Beornwyn is not all she seems and despite many pilgrims flocking to her shrines there is a taint of falsehood and scandal asso Another collaboration by a group of historical novelists where they each relate a short story from the Middle Ages through to modern times developing a mystery around a common theme. In this book the story begins with Beornwyn of Lythe, murdered in a chapel in 848 AD and beatified as a saint as it is thought she died defending her virginity from Viking invaders. However, Beornwyn is not all she seems and despite many pilgrims flocking to her shrines there is a taint of falsehood and scandal associated with her name. Throughout each story death and discord surround this so-called saint and the credulity of pilgrims in respect of relics and apparent miracles is well portrayed. Despite some readers saying they are tiring of the format, I still find them satisfying reading giving a taste of of different eras and introducing a range of diverse protagonists including in this volume Geoffrey Chaucer. The variation in writing styles, far from being a distraction, is refreshing and interesting and the format has certainly introduced me to new historical novelists like Ian Morson, Michael Jecks, Philip Gooden and Karen Maitland, whose work I now make an effort to read alongside old favourites like Bernard Knight and Susanna Gregory. I certainly hope the Medieval Murderers will continue their collaboration as these are perfect for when you want a change from the usual novel format, yet want excellent prose, a good story and lots of colourful period detail.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stef Rozitis

    This was a fairly interesting read...I wasn't riveted but I wasn't bored either and the length of each section was about right. It goes through a story of "Saint" Beorwyn I am not sure if she is supposed to have been a real person or if the whole thing is fictitious. Beorwyn dies and becomes a series of relics and the other stories tell what happens to those relics. There is much killing, war and general mayhem. Aspects of the history of England are interesting to read as I am reading a book abo This was a fairly interesting read...I wasn't riveted but I wasn't bored either and the length of each section was about right. It goes through a story of "Saint" Beorwyn I am not sure if she is supposed to have been a real person or if the whole thing is fictitious. Beorwyn dies and becomes a series of relics and the other stories tell what happens to those relics. There is much killing, war and general mayhem. Aspects of the history of England are interesting to read as I am reading a book about the history of capitalism at the same time, and it was like this book illustrated some of the periods the other (non-fiction) book discussed. Nearly all characters of any significance are male. Sure there is (the mostly dead) Beorwyn but the main thing about her was whether or not she was a "virgin" which is not much for the discerning feminist reader. There is a young girl who is mildly amusing in one of the sections. The writing is tolerable although some turns of phrase irritated me and I felt some words were used wrongly. That was not a major issue however as this is a book to read just for relaxation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    Listened to this on audio books. It is really a series of loosely connected short murder mysteries that are set between 1100 and 1600 in England. Some of them are better than others, but none of them are particularly engaging. I got a bit bored before finishing.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Soozee

    This is an interesting book, taking you through the years as the story of a saint (and her relics) influence a variety of characters. The book is unusual too, as each chapter is written by a different author. Overall, it works better than I actually expected it to do, maybe because there is sufficient time between each tale so that they are linked by a theme, but do not overlap. I particularly liked the tale set in Blidworth, as I originated from Nottinghamshire so could visualise the settings.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linda Amos

    Usual format - short stories based around a single theme. The storyline follows Beornwyn, the daughter of a Northumbrian king. She is known as a devout lady due to the time she spends praying in St Oswalds church on the hill. But is all it seems? Her legend grows with pockets of devotees across England. A range of periods is covered up to Cromwell's time and then we leap to a modern Russian oligarch. A good easy read, plenty of period detail and historical footnotes at the end of each chapter to p Usual format - short stories based around a single theme. The storyline follows Beornwyn, the daughter of a Northumbrian king. She is known as a devout lady due to the time she spends praying in St Oswalds church on the hill. But is all it seems? Her legend grows with pockets of devotees across England. A range of periods is covered up to Cromwell's time and then we leap to a modern Russian oligarch. A good easy read, plenty of period detail and historical footnotes at the end of each chapter to put the people in context.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Altha Farrel

    Although I didn't finish this book, it was by far the most interesting book that I have ever read, the reason being was that different chapters are written by different author thus exposing me to different kinds of writing style. The reason why I stopped midway was because short stories are really not my cup of tea. Despite each story managed to interest me, I did not find the satisfaction I usually felt when discovering the murderer as compared to other books. Overall, it's a good book for myst Although I didn't finish this book, it was by far the most interesting book that I have ever read, the reason being was that different chapters are written by different author thus exposing me to different kinds of writing style. The reason why I stopped midway was because short stories are really not my cup of tea. Despite each story managed to interest me, I did not find the satisfaction I usually felt when discovering the murderer as compared to other books. Overall, it's a good book for mystery lovers to read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Candida

    This grabbed my attention from the first words. The way it is written is short stories of historical fiction of the history of a religious relic. These stories start with a supposed saint back in the days of raiding Vikings. If you like this time period at all you should read this. I was able to listen to it on my Recorded Books app.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I tried this book as it wasn't short stories per se, being more of a progression of the story by different authors. I persevered for 100 pages but am not enjoying it. Too many shallow characters and quite frankly I don't care about any of them. I tried this book as it wasn't short stories per se, being more of a progression of the story by different authors. I persevered for 100 pages but am not enjoying it. Too many shallow characters and quite frankly I don't care about any of them.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jolie

    A fun and relatively fast-paced collection of themed mysteries, tied together with historical tidbits.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pattie Reads

    An enjoyable read, good for a holiday. Some of the stories were more engaging than others. The use of a possible saint as a connection between stories was interesting and well done.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Ryan

    Enjoyable overall and a good way to sample different writers but I'm not sure that the format is for me. Enjoyable overall and a good way to sample different writers but I'm not sure that the format is for me.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tonya Mathis

    Another wonderful book by a great group of authors.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sonny

    I enjoy the way the authors take a single artifact and build stories from different time periods. Always a great read!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Absolutely loved this book. It is the first one by the 'Medieval Murderers' that I have read and loved the format of a different writer for each chapter. The story is an intruiging one and the way each chapter links to the next is brilliant. Did anyone else notice that on the cover the saint is Bernwyn but within the text she is Beornwyn? I urge you to read this book and I will be serching out the others by the talented team of writers. Absolutely loved this book. It is the first one by the 'Medieval Murderers' that I have read and loved the format of a different writer for each chapter. The story is an intruiging one and the way each chapter links to the next is brilliant. Did anyone else notice that on the cover the saint is Bernwyn but within the text she is Beornwyn? I urge you to read this book and I will be serching out the others by the talented team of writers.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jaffareadstoo

    Another interesting set of complicated but interweaving stories from this talented bunch of historical fiction writers. I love how the books start and finish - it's really clever story telling. Another interesting set of complicated but interweaving stories from this talented bunch of historical fiction writers. I love how the books start and finish - it's really clever story telling.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bekki Stoliday

  17. 4 out of 5

    Peter B

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karine Rens

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kate Butterworth

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elke

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

  22. 5 out of 5

    Richard Brown

  23. 4 out of 5

    George

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dona Garrettson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kerry Paton

  26. 4 out of 5

    Earl Heather

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Brundage

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Smith-Vassighi

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

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