We read Augustine Came to Kent by Barbara Willard for our Illuminations Curriculum. This is living literature to go alongside our history studies, and this year we’re studying medieval history. This book covers the time period of Pope Gregory (the Great) and the book is about Fr. Augustine who evangelized Old England. It really added an element of depth and meaning to our history studies!
The book revolves around a boy, Wolf, and his father Wolfstan. They are converted to Christianity and through a series of events join the Fr. Augustine on his trip to England. Wolfstan is originally from England, having been taken from there in his youth to Rome. He was given his freedom as an adult and it lead to his conversion.
In the story, Wolf meets a girl and it will be obvious to most readers that she will become his love interest, and that course of the plot is a big part of the book. It didn’t add just a lot to the plot, but it did help with pulling out the old history of Roman ownership of the land and showed quite a bit of the culture and customs of the people of medieval times.
There are several disturbing events, including the death of Wolf’s mother (Wolfstan’s wife), which isn’t unexpected. She isn’t a character we come to know; she’s sick in the beginning and her death is an expected thing. The more disturbing death is that of the girl’s father; he dies in the course of a hog hunt in a small town where they are trying to evangelize. The death itself is sad, but not exceptionally gorey, and it brings glory to God as the man dies a peaceful death – something the people in the town had never seen.
What I liked: The history is rich here, and it was quite fun to uncover the secrets and cross the trails with Wolf and his family. I enjoyed the story of how he and the girl came together, and of the travel of the whole fellowship. The conversion of the King, and the admiration of the queen by Wolf’s love interest, was the climax of the story and was done very well. The King and Queen sequences really portray medieval royalty well. Wolf’s maturity and understanding about how best to stand by the girl and provide for her future is an incredible example to my boys!
What I disliked: As with many of the historical fictions, the plot just seems slow. I knew what was going to happen, but felt that it took many pages to cause it to do so. This isn’t a story that stuck with me, and my boys were quite bored in the parts where all that was happening was the boy thinking about the girl, or the girl thinking about how “lady-like” the queen was. It was a bit more of a lovey-dovey story than I expected with a historical fiction choice.
Overall rating: Good
Age Appeal: 12-17
Publisher Info: 1996 by Bethlehem Books (Living History Library); ISBN: 1883937213; Paperback $9.76, Hardcover $19.93, Kindle $4.95