Friday, May 29, 2015

Review: The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy

The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy
By Penelope Wilcock
Lion Hudson, 2015

The Hawk and the Dove, Book 1

14th-century Yorkshire, the time of Chaucer

Father Peregrine is appointed Abbot of St. Alcuin's Benedictine abbey. An arrogant, impatient man, a hawk trying hard to be a dove--his name in religion is "Columba"--he is respected, but not loved.

A sudden, shocking act of violence changes everything. As the story unfolds, this community of monks, serious about their calling but as flawed and human as we are, come to love their ascetic but now vulnerable leader.

They lived six centuries ago, but their struggles are our own: finding our niche; coping with failure; living with impossible people; and discovering that we are the impossible ones.

The Wounds of God, Book 2

Has Peregrine been broken?

Injured in an attack by old adversaries, Father Peregrine transforms from a steely, articulate, impressive leader into a humbled, crippled, wise mentor. Relying on the kindness of his fellow monks, the fiercely independent, hawkish abbot begins to regain his feet.

But he faces a fresh challenge. The Augustinian Priory of St. Dunstan lies three days' ride to the southwest, the domain of Prior William, whose calculating self-interest makes enemies everywhere. When he and Peregrine cross swords over a matter of justice masked as doctrine, will ruthlessness triumph over integrity?

The Long Fall, Book 3

Peregrine, strong and beloved abbot of St. Alcuin's monastery, suffers a stroke. Now incapacitated, he begins an arduous recovery with the help of his brothers in the infirmary.

Brother Tom, the young monk closest to him, is horrified by the suffering Peregrine's illness has inflicted. He keeps his distance, out of his depth. How will he find the courage to make this demanding journey of vulnerability with his friend? How will they communicate, now that Peregrine can no longer speak? How will Tom respond to the terrible, secret promise his abbot asks him to make?

In this journey to the depths of humanity, the two men discover together the treasures of darkness and the intimate mystery of compassion. Engaging and beautifully written, warm and haunting, The Long Fall concludes the first trilogy in the Hawk and the Dove series.

My thoughts

Poignant ... timeless ... inspiring ... entertaining ... reflective ... unexpected ... emotional ... a literary gem ... insightful ... The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy is all that and more. We are reminded that human nature never really changes and these stories were often like a mirror, compelling me to examine my own thoughts and attitudes. It troubles me that there's no way my words can adequately convey the beauty of these books and why readers should be moved to open their pages.

The setting of this trilogy is a 14th century Benedictine monastery - and the first two volumes, The Hawk and the Dove and The Wounds of God, contain vignettes passed down through the centuries by Father Edward's family and told to the present day Melissa by her mother. The imagery of St. Alcuin's on the edge of the Yorkshire moors and the monastic life couldn't be more vivid, and the deceptively simple lyrical prose reveals a wealth of insight.

The trilogy revolves around the beloved Father Peregrine, who is appointed Abbot of St. Alcuin's in the early chapters. But he wasn't always beloved, for "there was precious little compassion or gentleness about him"  in the beginning, and it took a horrific personal tragedy to gradually reveal a Christlike spirit that touched all who were around him, and will touch every reader in the same way.

Book 3, The Long Fall, uses the novel format to tell a darker story that focuses on Father Peregrine and Brother Tom, and it's this story that I found most profound and almost haunting. Penelope's hospice experience has served her well in writing of Brother Tom's distancing himself from Peregrine after his stroke, gradually learning to see the person instead of the illness, and not allowing the indignity of illness to overshadow the dignity of the human spirit. Wow, what a life lesson! Penelope shared in an interview:  "In The Long Fall, I wanted to give a voice to those hidden lives. In many novels and dramas, it is the doctors and nurses who are the stars, the people they care for having merely supporting roles. I wanted to give back centre stage to people who had been pushed by illness to the margins of their own lives."

Faith Farrell, who blogs at Found a Christian by His Grace, has a gift with words and I appreciate receiving her permission to share a few of her thoughts on this series . . .

Oh, there's so many reasons to read these books.
        Read them for the fine writing that turns these little tales into magic doors that transport you to another world.
        Read them for the way they'll absorb you utterly, and the way you'll crave the next chapter, and the way they'll feed your heart.
        Read them for their deceptive simplicity, because while they're stories of particular people and place- the brothers of St. Alcuin's- they're somehow about you and I too.

        Read them for Brothers Tom and Cormac and Francis and Theodore. Enjoy the delightful camaraderie of young men all trying to understand their vocations and conform their lives to the pattern of simple service. There are antics and escapades and growth in goodness aplenty among these novices!
        Read them for Brothers Andrew and Matthew and Edward, older men who took their vows long ago and still find themselves learning God's ways.
        Read them for Father Peregrine, the abbot who leads them all, with justice and distance at first, and eventually with a true shepherd's merciful hand.

These men may belong to the 1300s, but the human heart still breaks and mends in the same old ways.

(You will be blessed by reading the rest of Faith's review at

These stories are timeless, compelling, and will speak to everyone. Highly recommended.

Shared at Literacy Musing Mondays


Penelope Wilcock is the author of The Hawk and the Dove Series and many other books such as In Celebration of Simplicity and 100 Stand-Alone Bible Studies. She has many years of experience as a Methodist minister and has worked as a hospice and school chaplain. She has five adult daughters and lives in Hastings, East Sussex.

Connect with Penelope online at

Thank you to Kregel/Lion Hudson for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


  1. This series sounds like one I would like; I enjoy books set in ancient England, and in abbeys. I will check the author's blog.

  2. Excellent review as always. I, too, had a difficult time expressing just how moving this trilogy is. Thanks for putting into words my stumbling thoughts.

  3. Carole, I totally agree that these are classics--beautiully written an they convey a wonderful feeling for the period and the people.

  4. Thanks for linking up faithfully with Literacy Musing Mondays. Check out your pin too: