Hello – and welcome to THE BOOK OF EVE
When you start reading, you’ll find yourself in the hills above a place very like Florence, in a time very like 1500, but as you career down the wooded slopes in a dilapidated cart and enter the walls of a convent, you’ll come to realise that this story exists in a timeline that’s a little shimmy away from our own. That slip, that sidestep, breaches reality just enough (I hope!) to allow us to imagine a world where the stories we tell ourselves about women and religion, aren’t quite as fixed as we might have been led to believe.
This story began for me in 2019, when I was treating myself to an hour on my own in a London bar (with the crunchiest polenta chips, the coldest white wine) staring at images of the Voynich manuscript, a tantalisingly undecipherable Renaissance text, willing a story to jump out at me.
And jump it did: like I’d only gone and summoned it.
The pictures of weird and wonderful plants, of mobile and magical trees, snagged my imagination and led it on a merry dance, whisking me from oddball flora to Ovid (my late-teen literary crush), from Ovid to metamorphosis – and thence to women in peril, women in power, and finally to the pitfalls of patriarchal worship and the possibilities of the female divine.
At my story’s heart, though, as you’ll discover, lies one very powerful and very capricious book – and Beatrice, one very lonely librarian. Like all of us, she’s had her struggles. Like some of us, she finds words a lot easier than people. But once this book gets its claws into her, she’s going to find (we hope!) the strength to quit her library, open her heart, and brave the real world.
Before I leave you to it, I’ll admit this is very much a lockdown novel. You’ll be quick to spot the creeping claustrophobia; my fixation with gates and walls. But life, for those months, could (just occasionally) feel enticingly out of time. And so, one night, it felt perfectly sensible to rise at 2am, to weave through the moon shadows of a winter wood, to turn pages in the silver light. I couldn’t go to Florence, but I could travel miles and years in my mind.
I hope you enjoy Beatrice’s adventure.