The Confessions of X: A Novel: an old woman sits beside a fountain in the courtyard of the local bishop, who is lying on his death bed. At the gates of the city—a provincial outpost of the Roman Empire in Africa Province—the Vandals have laid siege and are threatening to lay waste the land. It is the fifth century A.D. and the woman, from the city of Carthage in Africa Province, her name unknown to history, begins the story of her life: how she was raised by her father, a master mosaic craftsman, and how as a young woman living in Carthage she met and fell in love with a brilliant orator named Augustine. In time she becomes his concubine and bears him a son, Adeodatus. She becomes a companion along Augustine’s anguished spiritual journey from a secretive religious cult to the Christian faith. She supports his work as an orator and teacher of rhetoric, following him to Italy, where he seeks advancement within the imperial court of the Roman Empire. This woman is forced to make an agonizing decision, to choose between her own happiness or the happiness of the man she loves. Her choice propels her on an odyssey that will take her through desolation and loss toward moments of unexpected grace and joy. – from author’s website
It took me a while to get into this book because of the writing style, which I would consider similar to literary fiction, as well as the focus on the characters and less on the plot. Because of the language and description, this book is a slow read but once I got into the book and got into the rhythm of reading the language, I became very invested in Augustine’s lover’s story. When the main character left Augustine and Adeodatus, their son, it broke my heart. I knew it was going to happen and tried to prepare myself for it, but the way Suzanne Wolfe wrote that particular section, it absolutely moved me to tears. The ending was bittersweet as well, but it left me somewhat satisfied with Augustine and his lover’s ending. The characters drew me in and this is a very character-focused book. I did find it fascinating to read a story of Augustine’s mystery woman and view it from her perspective.