Author Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on: Epiphany

Author Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on: Epiphany

  • Patricia Nicol considers the historical origins of the term ‘ephiphany’
  • James Joyce’s The Dead describes an annual revelation party
  • Jane Austen’s Emma shows Harriet Smith’s revelation of her love for Mr. Knightley










Thursday is the Feast of the Holy Trinity. This has never meant much to me – nor am I a danger to most Britons. On the continent there are parties, festivals, gift traditions and cakes. In Ireland, it’s the sexist-sounding ‘Women’s Christmas’ when husbands have to do their duty.

Here? I fear revelation is mostly marked by confused people googling ‘When should I take my Christmas decorations down?’ This is not how it used to be: Shakespeare named a sex-change comedy for Twelfth Night. I blame the Puritans and their killjoy descendants.

Holy Trinity (derived from Greek for reveal or manifesto) is a hat-trick feast day. It marks the day the magicians were to arrive at Jesus’ bed. Also Jesus’ baptism of John the Baptist and his first reported miracle – water for wine. Take it, dry January!

One of literature’s most famous short stories, James Joyce’s The Dead, describes an annual revelation feast. While the snow covers Ireland, guests gather for Misses Morkans’ evening of song and dance. Although they are not rich, the women are generous, laying on a goose, ham, spicy beef, puddings of jelly and cream, figs, raisins, nuts, chocolate, ‘a pyramid of oranges and American apples’, all washed down with port wine, sherry and ‘minerals for the ladies’.

In Jane Austen's Emma, ​​when Harriet Smith reveals her admiration for Mr.  Knightley

In Jane Austen’s Emma, ​​when Harriet Smith reveals her admiration for Mr. Knightley

Joyce’s character, Gabriel Conroy, has thoughts that evening that are consistent with the standard literary interpretation of a revelation, as a potentially life-changing revelation.

Like, for example, in Jane Austen’s Emma, ​​when Harriet Smith reveals her admiration for Mr. Knightley. For the heroine Emma Woodhouse, suddenly ‘known with her heart. . . it flew through her at the speed of the arrow that Mr. Knightley was not allowed to marry anyone but himself! ‘

Elizabeth Strout is one of our wisest contemporary novelists. Her latest, Oh William !, sends a returning character, Lucy Barton, on a road trip with her first husband, William. He has made a discovery about his deceased mother, which heralds other revelations and self-realizations.

Do you need encouragement this week? So do not just make Twelfth Night about taking your tree down, but celebrate Holy Trinity.

One of literature's most famous short stories, James Joyce's The Dead, describes an annual revelation feast

One of literature’s most famous short stories, James Joyce’s The Dead, describes an annual revelation feast

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