> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 8 November 2018
  • ISBN: 9781473564459
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 208

Francis

A Life in Songs




A life of St Francis in verse

**LONGLISTED FOR THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE 2019**
**SHORTLISTED FOR THE CATHOLIC HERALD BOOK AWARDS 2019**
A life of St Francis in verse

Throughout her career Ann Wroe has constantly confounded expectations, following her own unique path. Now, in Francis, she turns to verse to tell the life of St Francis of Assissi. This is a sequence only Ann Wroe could write, combining a troubadour’s musicality with full grasp of the moment, and a luminous sense of Francis as both myth and man, across history and culture, in nature and community. It is a remarkable and immensely beautiful book.

St Francis was one of the most compelling spirits the world has seen. He was also a poet, a musician and a dancer. His world was coloured by troubadour lays, brightened by birdsong, ordered by the bells and chants of the Church and transfigured by the angel-lyres he heard about him. For Ann Wroe, this seems a good reason to write his life in songs. It is also an excuse to record, in songs, the many ways his presence and his music still linger round us. They surprise us in chance encounters in city streets; they waylay us amid the humdrum banalities of working life; they persist in the beauties of nature. Great spirits never leave us. They echo on and on.

  • Pub date: 8 November 2018
  • ISBN: 9781473564459
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 208

About the Author

Ann Wroe

Ann Wroe is the Briefings and Obituaries editor of The Economist. She is the author of seven previous works of non-fiction, including Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man, which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Award and the W.H. Smith Award. She lives in north London.

Also by Ann Wroe

See all

Praise for Francis

“The most beautiful book I have read in a long time.”

Emma Duncan, The Times

“This passionate series of engagements with the life of St Francis will stay in my mind for a very long time – I hope forever… This is a poet with a distinctive voice, a command of form and a lightness of touch matched by a depth of heart… Wroe so triumphantly [exercises the imagination] in poem after poem.”

A. N. Wilson, Spectator

“[Ann Wroe] turned her formidable gifts to the saint of Assisi in Francis: A Life In Songs. It has a remarkable structure… (of which I am sure the saint himself would approve). It is a book which, written by one individual, manages many voices, and is almost choral in its glory.”

Stuart Kelly, Scotsman, *Books of the Year*

“In our secular age, the book seems literarily heretical – triumphantly unfashionable. But do not imagine it to be conventionally devout. It does what poetry is meant to do, and seldom does: it takes you to another place while making you reflect on what it is to be here… Even as a non-believer, you want to hold on to this writing, as if to a book of prayer.”

Kate Kellaway, Observer

“A superb verse biography of St Francis, by the queen of the unexpected life-in-brief… This is a book to press into the hands of anyone who has decided they have given up on “difficult modern poetry”. It’s so quietly traditional, so unashamedly lovely, that it seems almost radical… [Wroe] recalls John Clare in her close attentiveness to the natural world and the way she conveys a sense of spontaneous joy.”

Tristram Fane Saunders, Telegraph **Poetry Book of the Month**

“This extraordinary book… is quite haunting… [Francis] is one of the saints who is appealing even in a secular age… this isn’t a book just for the faithful; it’s for lovers of poetry in life and literature... a wonderful little book. ”

Melanie McDonagh, Evening Standard

“Each poem is beautiful. The book as a whole knocked me for six.”

A.N. Wilson, The Tablet, **Books of the Year**

“Ms Wroe's is a rare and beautiful telling. She takes the miracles of St Francis and sings them in four keys.”

Laura Freeman, Economist

“The ever-inventive biographer [Ann Wroe] retells the life of Francis of Assisi in deft, lyrical rhyming verse.”

Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year

“The poems themselves are beautiful and clever… Wroe is at her exquisite best when directly tackling the most sacred of Christian images.”

Kate Maltby, Financial Times

“[Wroe] captures here the essential spirit of the saint – himself a poet after all, whose work has never died – making this a delight to read. A book not to be missed.”

Peter Costello, Irish Catholic

“This is a book full of complex engagements with the word and the flesh, and the counterpointed rhythms of the sacred and the secular. Wroe’s book is a praise song, vindicating the worlds beyond our rationalist compass.”

David Wheatley, Guardian

“The spiritual is vivid through quality and vitality in this poetry. Wroe’s writing method is incarnational, translating the apparently mundane into rich parables.”

Martyn Halsall, Church Times

“An elegant hardback with ambitions beyond the poetry shelves… Ann Wroe’s unusual and impressive book is less a Life of Francis than a series of…epiphanies and personal revelations inspired by his imagined company.”

John Greening, Times Literary Supplement


Related titles