The Confessions of X: A Novel
Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2016
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Reviewed by Kathleen O’Malley
I generally avoid romances, but this is one I’m glad I read. The Confessions of X is a soulful saga of a woman’s life with those she loved. I admit, though, that after I saw the cover and summary of The Confessions of X, I wondered whether this would be a story with blatant sexual immorality. The fact that the story was about St. Augustine of Hippo’s common-law wife—or concubine, as was the term then—only strengthened this impression. In the modern culture, “concubine” is an uncomfortable word, and I shied from it initially. I eventually learned that in the fifth-century Roman world “concubinage” was a monogamous relationship between a man and woman—often of differing social statuses—who could not be married. It was an accepted arrangement, though perhaps not ideal, for situations when societal reasons forbade marriage.
Author Suzanne Wolfe approached the unnamed woman, X, from the perspective that Augustine’s words about her in his Confessions showed a loving relationship. Augustine wrote that when his mother arranged an advantageous marriage for him, “the woman with whom I had been living was torn from my side as an obstacle to my marriage and this blow crushed my heart to bleeding because I loved her dearly.” The Confessions of X is the story of X’s many years with Augustine leading up to this separation and after it.