The Wind Eye

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Author: Robert Westall

Age Range: Young Teens

Period: Contemporary

Genres:  FamilyMagicTime-Travel


Bertrand, a widower Cambridge professor with two daughters, has married Madeleine, a widow with a son. The children get on but the adults' relationship is stormy. They spend a holiday in a cottage on the Northumbrian coast, and find an ancient sailing boat which takes them back 1000 years to the time of St Cuthbert.


The start is unpromising: the adults seem to be staying together despite their rows only through pride. Bertrand is insufferably knowledgeable and Madeleine likes to get her own way despite the embarrassment caused to others. She deliberately steps on the tomb of St Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral and Bertrand spends his time debunking local superstitions. Of the children, Sally is a 6-year-old whose right hand is crippled after an accident with an electric fire for which Bertrand holds himself responsible, Beth and Michael are young teenagers. Bertrand is an declared empiricist and Madeleine selfish, but the reader's sympathy is swayed between one and another. Sally is attracted by a figure she sees which turns out to be St Cuthbert. The others are unable to prevent her staying with him one time when the boat goes between times. She stays with the saint, during which time her hand is miraculously cured. Madeleine admits the possibility of divine supernature, while Bertrand - a declared atheist - declaims it as unknown science. The final episode becomes a conflict between Beth, who appears to be a serious Christian (possibly Catholic) and her unbelieving father. She uses the boat's oar to reach St Cuthbert's time, while her father takes the boat itself to do the same. Bertand's aim is to prevent St C's legendary raising of a storm to sink the attacking Vikings, Beth's to prevent Bertrand. Bertrand never meets St C, instead warning the monks and trying to keep off the Vikings, in both of which attempts he eventually fails. Beth, meanwhile, wanders naked (though never seen in this state) on the island where St C lives and is initially driven off by him as he believes her to be a temptation sent by the devil, but when she tells him “amica Christi sum” and drives away the demons attacking his hut he tells her “femina bona es” which she translates as “you are a virtuous female”. She leaves him and swims back to land. Later she explains to Mike that although she was unclothed her thoughts were not of seduction but of her father and thus St C saw her as a friend.

Tuesday 1st January 2002