The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Meet the Author

The Priest’s Wife, Pantolwen Press, £9.99


Retired medical doctor and ordained priest Andrew Rivett wrote his debut novel, The Seaborne, almost entirely in Scotland – on his then small croft in the off-grid community of Scoraig on Loch Broom and at the Findhorn Spiritual Foundation in Moray.

It was intended to be a standalone but he says his characters had other ideas. Now a trilogy, the second book, The Priest’s Wife, has just been published, with the final offering, The Shareg, already under way.

The trilogy begins with modern-day London engineer John Finlay escaping a life of debt and despair by running away to sea. But when the unthinkabl­e happens he is pulled from the water barely alive to find he has time travelled to an 11th century Celtic island, where no-one speaks his language. It’s a world inhabited by Morag, the priest’s wife, who comes to the fore in book two.

London-born Andrew, who, while living in Scotland with his wife, came to know and practice the Culdee or Ceile De tradition of Celtic spirituali­ty, tells P.S: “It was in the writing of The Seaborne that I realised it wanted to go further. The characters were telling me where the story wanted to go. I also realised what a patriarcha­l society we were in and how many women find they can work with it, but some don’t. Some want to rise above it. Enter Morag, The Priest’s wife. She is one of these strong women who wants to have her own voice, and in a manner of speaking, she asked me to write a book for her. Morag wanted to have her own story.”

He explains: “When Morag’s husband, Hugh, the priest, becomes ill and dies, she is thrown into a crisis. Not only has she lost her husband, but she has lost her home and her standing in the community.

“When she is challenged about her ancestry, a raw nerve is exposed, because she never knew her mother. She was raised by her paternal grandfathe­r and was always turned away from the subject of her mother. She grows up with a sense that perhaps her background is shameful. So she sets off on a quest to discover her own mother and, in doing so, begins to unfold what she is in herself.”

In beautiful, lyrical prose, the author – now based in Wales – creates not only the fantasy island on which the story his set, but its faith.

And while it is not Ceile De, he reveals the story “leans heavily” on it. “This was an authentic, nature affirming tradition. One which was Christ centred but that also honoured the ancient Druidic stories of Gaelic folklore. It forms an important part of our lives still,” he says of the faith he and his wife share. It’s a tradition that strikes a balance between masculine and feminine, unlike Christiani­ty alone which, until relatively recently, had largely written women out of its history.

The author is also keen to bridge the divide between science and spirituali­ty.

“I want to confront this false dichotomy in my writing, this idea that science has all the answers,” he says. “Science is a strong tool in exploring what is and has yielded some wonderful results. But we must remember there are lots of things science cannot answer. Shakespear­e puts it beautifull­y (in Hamlet): ‘There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy’.”

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