There’s nothing quite like sitting down to write a novel about a man who, to quote Marie Macpherson, is blamed for “banning Christmas, football on Sundays,” and the like. What is one to do with such a subject, never mind making him interesting and sympathetic? Yet this is exactly what The First Blast of the Trumpet (Knox Robison Publishing, 2012) does for John Knox—best known as the dour misogynist who spearheaded the Scottish Reformation.
Macpherson approaches Knox sideways through the character of Elizabeth Hepburn, a reluctant nun installed at the uncanonically young age of 24 as prioress of St. Mary’s Abbey to ensure the continued dominance of the earls of Bothwell (whose family name was Hepburn) over the abbey and its resources. Elizabeth’s determination to craft a life that suits her never wavers, despite the conflicting claims of her family, the lure of court politics, and the opposition of a male clergy bent on keeping women in their place. This wonderfully researched novel mixes history and fiction to reveal Scotland during its last century of independence in all its complexity, depravity, and richness; and as Elizabeth’s career increasingly intertwines with the childhood and youth of John Knox, the need for reform in the Scottish Catholic Church becomes ever clearer.
The First Blast of the Trumpet is volume 1 of The Knox Trilogy.