**Some content regarding the details of the decadence of Rome is for mature readers**
From the popular Louis de Wohl Series of historical novels about the saints, published by Ignatius Press. The renowned novelist De Wohl, with his usual crisp language and descriptive narrative, as well as irony and humor, presents the colorful and tumultuous times of the early Christian era in this story of intrigue, romance and power politics revolving around Helena, the devoted and saintly mother of Constantine, the first Christian emperor. This historical novel tells the story of the quest for the True Cross through fifty years of the most exciting events in Roman and Christian history.
The narrative begins when the Tribune Constantius, a Roman officer stationed in Britain, meets and wins Helena, only daughter of the mystical and oracular King Coel of Britain. Through the course of their early lives together, and during their ten-year separation when Constantius returns to Britian as a conquering Caesar and Helena has become a rejected wife, devoted mother, and militant Christian, there is a sure and convincing portrayal of character growth and personal conflict. Helena's fierce determination to raise Constantine as a warrior son and her gradual discovery and dramatic acceptance of Christianity prepare her for the final miracle of her life discovery of the True Cross, the Living Wood on Calvary.
The Living Wood is a chapter from the turbulent half-forgotten pages of early Christian history and legend in which the religious conflicts and problems are handled with moving simplicity. It is also an action-packed novel of those times—with a lesson for us today—that captures with equal skill and tumult and the shouting of the battlefield and the devious plots and counter-plots of the court. Copyright 1947. This edition published 2008, Ignatius Press. 5.25 x 8 inches. Soft cover. 370 pp.
Reviewed by Bruce T. Clark
The Living Wood is the fascinating story about Saint Helena and her fifty-year quest to discover the whereabouts of the True Cross on which Our Blessed Lord was crucified. The story, written by Louis de Wohl, one of the most prolific Catholic historical novelists of the 1930s and 1940s, begins in Britain in 272 A.D., when Tribute Constantius of the Twentieth Roman Legion meets the teenage daughter of King Coel, one of history's fascinating rulers. Constantius and Helena are at once attracted, yet repelled, by one another. A stormy period of courtship results in a turbulent marriage during an era of Roman and British history which teems with political intrigue engendered by a never-ending attempt to seize power by warriors as well as politicians. Wohl brings to life an era that still conceals much of its intrigue behind an arcane curtain.
Shortly after the wedding, Tribune Constantius is recalled to Rome. After a ten-year separation, he returns to Britain as a conquering Caesar. The turbulent marriage resumes, and a child, Constantine, is born. As the years pass, readers will be fascinated by Helena's fierce determination to raise her son as a scholarly yet powerful warrior. It is also the story of her gradual but dynamic acceptance of Christianity. In the end, Saint Helena's diligent preparation and nurturing of her son will result in Constantine becoming the first Christian Emperor. Her faith and devotion to Our Blessed Lord will be rewarded by her discovery of His cross.
Despite an occasional vulgar word or expression that might have been expressed in a more gentle manner, de Wohl's well-researched, exciting adventure sequences are proof of his vast knowledge about the life and times of Saint Helena. The Living Wood is beautifully written, easy-reading historical fare that I highly recommend for mature teens and adults.