"Little Saint" is proof that the genre of hagiography, for 1,000 years themost important non-Scriptural literature in the West, is alive and well.

Or alive, anyway. For this celebration of Sainte Foy, born in 290 andmartyred at age 12 for refusing to renounce Christianity before theEmperor Diocletian, while loving and at times beautifully elegiac, cannotovercome the inherent limitations of its project: As Milton realized, evilis fun, but good quickly grows tiresome.

In the early 1970s, Green and her husband began vacationing in the smallFrench village of Conques, home of Sainte Foy and her cult. Though aProtestant, Green grew fascinated by the legend of this child, who not onlydied heroically but was betrayed to the authorities by her own father.Green learned French well enough to translate the literary sources ofSainte Foy's legend, and she sprinkles the book with liberal excerpts fromthese writers, especially Bernard of Angers. She also befriended anelderly priest and several other eccentric characters who shared her loveof the child. Green's book is thus part compendium of legend, parttravelogue, and part memoir.

What yokes the various chapters together is that they all glorify SainteFoy. By the end of the book, the reader, too, adores Sainte Foy, but haswearied of the book. It is, after all, unstinting praise, heaped uponitself, with nothing to produce dramatic tension, conflict, or resolution. Thebook is thus charming at times, tedious at last.

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