Love this book. John Thornburn, a rather vague and migrane prone Newfoundland artist, has been picked up and whisked to Dublin by his autocratic girlfriend, Dr Derval O'Keane Phd, professor of Irish studies at Trinity College. The only things John likes about Ireland are Derval, who pushes him around rather a lot but is good fun, and Celtic art, which he loves with a consuming and profitless passion.
When John somehow opens a gate into tenth century Ireland he and Derval are drawn into the struggles of Ailesh Inion Goban whose home has been destroyed by a Viking raiding party, and into the complex politics of a country where the King of Dublin is named Olaf Sigtryggson, where the Irish Church is still very much its own entity not yet brought into orthodoxy with Rome, and where a Brigid who is not entirely a Saint nor entirely a Goddess may yet still be encountered in the hedgerows on a rainy night.
In the twentieth the people of the tenth may be just history, but through the gate John and Derval find themselves increasingly caught up in the lives of people who are anything but academic abstractions. That's the best part of this book, the wonderful noisy, smelly, poetic, angry, passionate people baking bread and building ships and taking sweatbaths and stealing cattle, and murdering and demanding blood price and singing laments and illustrating manuscripts.