Book Review – NAVIGATIO by Patrick Holland

Navigatio by Patrick HollandNavigatio Synopsis :

Navigatio tells the story of Saint Brendan of Clonfert, a sixth century monk and adventurer, and his legendary quest for the Isle of the Blessed via a gauntlet of monsters, devils, angels, prophets and beautiful maidens. Brendan’s battles with the sea and the cosmos bear out what William Faulkner once called ‘the human heart in conflict with itself’.

This haunting parable of darkness and light, of temptation and belief, of voice and silence, is told with the utmost economy of words, making it a small masterpiece of compassionate perception.

Illustrations by Junko Azukawa
Hardback with jacket 205mm x135mm, published by Transit Lounge


Holland’s prose within this beautiful little package titled Navigatio is spare and selective, and so I will endeavour to pen my response to it in kind.

The title Navigatio is not just a reference to the latin ‘Voyage of Saint Brendan the Abbot’ (Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis). The subject matter of this book is both of a voyage and more broadly about voyaging. At it’s heart Navigatio prompts the reader to question what spurs one to travel and what one gains from it – travel of both the physical and the mind.

Navigatio is also a descriptor of the experience this physical object offers readers. Its delivery is highly experimental and artistic. It takes the reader on a mental journey that mirrors life’s more philosophical one.

If it is forbidden, then there is a way.

Experimental literature may not be to everyone’s tastes but Azukawa’s Japanese water colour paintings beautifully complement such a reflective piece – the mix of different ancient cultures an acknowledgement of the timelessness and recurrent themes within the folklore of humanity.

Having had the pleasure of reading Holland’s inquiring and profound collection of travel essays Riding the Trains in Japan and experiencing the philosophical depths of his novel The Darkest Little Room, it is seems almost logical that Navigatio was borne from the same mind. 

Navigatio is far from a retelling of a monk’s fabled adventure. It is an original, stylistic extrapolation from a writer of great talent and passion for travel and literature, and exploring the space where those two things meet.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

Navigatio by Patrick Holland
Bookworld(Aus) | Book Depository

Genre: Literature, Historical, Mystery


Author Information: Patrick Holland is the award-winning author of The Source of the Sound, The Mary Smokes Boys, Riding the Trains in Japanand The Darkest Little Room. He lives in Brisbane, Australia.

– Check out Patrick Holland’s website

Other reviews of Navigatio: Readings; The Age

* My receiving a hardback copy of this novel from Transit Lounge did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.