The Patron Saint of Eels
by Abbas El-Zein
In the southern Italian village of Stellanuova, in the 1700s, a Franciscan monk, Fra Ionio, becomes known as the Patron Saint of Eels when he brings a distraught fisherman’s yearly catch of eels back from the dead in the village market. When Stellanuova’s inhabitants emigrate to Australia in the post World War II migrations of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, the immortal saint is left looking down on an abandoned town. To fulfil his calling, he decides in heaven to migrate with his countrymen and now looks down on the state of Victoria, where he intercedes in matters relating to eels.
In the southern Victorian town of Mangowak, Noel Lea lives with the melancholy inheritance of a place undergoing the gentrifications of contemporary Australia. Along with his oldest friend, Nanette Burns, he longs for a time when life was less complex and unexpected magic seemed to permeate the ocean town and its people. When spring rains flood a nearby swamp and hundreds of eels get trapped in the grassy ditches around Noel’s family home, he and Nanette encounter the vibrant Fra Ionio and get more magic than they bargained for.
This novel is a contemporary fable revealing that when life seems dull and cruel it is the power of the natural world, and our ability to imagine it, that can bring the wonder back into living.
- Year of Publication: 2005
- Genre: Literature
- Audience: Adult