A Book of Correspondences
The ancient western Anatolian town of Nicaea (now Iznik in modern-day Turkey) was the site of two transforming events in Christian history. The first was a council of the Church in 325 CE that formalized the central doctrines of Christian faith under the aegis of the Roman Empire, while a second council in 787 CE sanctioned the creation of icons, thus facilitating the flourishing of Christian art. Nicaea
is an imaginative recreation of what happened at those councils and the characters who have passed through Nicaea through the centuries. Using multiple narrative styles (letters, meditations, Arabic folktales, a Sufi zhikr, prayers and Turkish shadow-puppet theater) that reflect the dazzling diversity of peoples who have been in Nicaea, Nicaea
explores the central themes of both councils: faith and political power, individual conscience and collective responsibility, art and truth, and the sacred and profane.
August 11, 2003
Though the chapters are linked by the Nicaea setting and religious overtones, Rowe's approach, focusing less on Adam and Marianne's modern-day love story than on the past, results in a book that reads less like a novel than a finely wrought collection of short stories. Rowe's prose is fluid and eloquent, but the constant shifts in era and story can make the narrative a challenge. Yet this is an impressive fiction debut, and readers interested in early Christian history will find much food for thought here.