4 out of 4 stars
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Set in 1987 USSR in the Republic of Georgia, The Vine and the Cross by Jean Marie Ivey is historical fiction that intertwines themes of romance, faith, and mystery. Alexandra visits the country during a singing tour with the Surry Opera Company and is transported through the beautiful Georgian music to 4th century AD. On her mystical journey, she witnesses sacrificial love, martyrdom, and the origin of Christianity in the country.
During her singing tour, Ivey was haunted by “the feeling that she had lived there before" and inspired to write the book. I found the 107-page read beautifully written and professionally edited. The timeline alternated between 1987 and the 4th century. Throughout the book, adaptations of classic Bible stories were woven through dialogues between characters. Through her artwork, photographs, and skillful use of imagery, Ivey effectively intertwined the Georgian culture, roots of Christianity, and the opera company performance. A photograph of Saint Nino's Grapevine Cross and the iconic legend of the robe of Jesus provided further insight into Ivey's fondness for the country. Like her main character, Alexandra, I felt transported in time.
Ivey's love for the Georgian culture was evident, and I particularly enjoyed her enchanting descriptions interspersed throughout the book. Alexandra's reactions to savoring Turkish coffee, perusing the charming markets, and awe upon visiting the Sioni Cathedral of Dormition were conveyed in exquisite details. I also appreciated Ivey's inclusion of the beautiful Georgian alphabet symbols in many of the subtitles. Additionally, Ivey's lovely paintings were a treat and showcased the vine and cross referred to in the title, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, and Jvari Monastery.
At the beginning of the book, Ivey expressed gratitude to Walter Nowick, the founder and director of the Surry Opera Company. I understood Ivey's desire to retell her story as historical fiction, but Walter was mentioned by the fictional character, Alexandra; the resulting confusion was the only thing I disliked about the book. Alexandra's character seemed to be a representation of Ivey, so I wondered why she didn't also rename Walter for the sake of consistency, which would have prevented confusion.
Even so, this is a minor inconsistency in an otherwise engaging story. I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to fans of historical fiction and those interested in Georgian music, opera, and culture. While the book emphasizes Christianity, Walter is Buddhist, and the book also includes spiritual mysticism. For this reason, it may appeal to readers of various religions. It contains no profanity or sexual content.
The Vine and the Cross
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