Review: The Private Lives of the Saints, Janina Ramirez

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

It is my innate liking of Anglo-Saxon Britain which makes me rate this at 3.5/5 rather than any particular strength of the book. Indeed, I think that while it is an illuminating look into many people who otherwise do not get a deserved mention in more secular histories, the look into every individual here is quite shallow and generally based on a well-known story or feature. Rarely do we encounter even a conjecture of what their “private” life was like, and even where the author’s mention of “interesting results” is common, these results are communicated down to the reader in a very poor manner.

At the same time, the author also draws attention to a lot of topics I have never thought about before and for this, this work is really enjoyable. This connective style is very good for the reader, for whom the 16th century is aligned with the 8th and the various regions of England with their continental equivalents. This comprehensive overview allows for a good general overview of what was going on, even if the details remain in the shade.

Overall, I would recommend this, even though it could have been called something else. The treatise here also ponders the meaning of sanctity and that is, always, a topic worth dwelling upon.

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