Book review: The Bastard of Saint Genevra by Diane Gallagher

Dianeby the Rev. Dawn Braithwaite, MDiv

Dawn Braithwaite is the community leader at the Cowichan Centre for Peaceful Community and manages the not-for-profit Global Initiatives Fair Trade Store.  An activist and a feminist, she is a world traveller and an avid reader.

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The Bastard of Saint Genevra is a story of family secrets revealed.  It is a sweeping tale of three women that spans half the world and nearly a thousand years.  Elena steps off a plane in Trapani in search of her birth mother; Genevra undertakes a spiritual journey that begins with an unexpected pregnancy; Cristiana gives up her child and leaves her half a world away to return to her life and family in Sperlinga.  All three of these protagonists in Diane Gallagher’s latest novel rekindled my faith in the healing power of unconditional love.  Their integrity, compassion, and acceptance of the pitfalls and joys of life unfold in a most natural way under Gallagher’s own honest treatment of the diversity present in the Universe.

From the first word spoken by the main character, Elena, “Shit!” to Gallagher’s second protagonist, Genevra’s self-description, “I was a spoiled child.” Gallagher weaves reality around their difficult journeys to self-awareness matter-of-factly and honestly.  Even the introduction of her third protagonist, Cristiana, is so skilfully woven into the unfolding narrative that, while surprised at the twists and turns of her own life’s story, we sense (and secretly hope) that under Gallagher’s watchful pen, “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich)

As a theologian, I was impressed with the author’s attention to how important the matrix of the storylines was to the development of each of the characters. Her marriage of the genres of history, theology, mystery, and fantasy is brilliant.

For any reader who has or wishes to explore the road to generational healing, I would highly recommend Diane Gallagher’s novel; for while fictional, it will resonate with many of our own stories. As I said to my own daughter as I passed her the review copy, “You must read this, we are not alone.”  We both hope there will be a sequel.


The Bastard of Saint Genevra is Diane Gallagher’s third book.  The first, Greenwich List, published by Asteroid Publishing, and the second, Mancia di Sanu: A Canadian Expat’s Take on Sicilian Life and Cuisine published by Island2Island Press, are available on Amazon. The Bastard of Saint Genevra is also being published by Island2Island Press and will be released June 1st.  You can watch for updates on the Island2Island Press website ( or on Diane Gallagher’s website (  You can follow them on Twitter: @Island2IslandPr and @diane_writes.

The Editor
The Editor
Times of Sicily | Sicily in English

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