Helena, written by the renowned author Evelyn Waugh, is a descriptive, imaginative take on the stories or legends of Helena, the finder of the true cross of Jesus Christ. Not very many people read Helena today, and it is not listed in the canon of Waugh’s greatest works. The book was published in 1950, as his sole historical novel, and has been described by some to be lacking the usual biting satire that Waugh Is known for. However, he often describes this novel as his best work.
This story begins in the last decade of the third century and continues through to the last of the fourth, at Helena’s legendary home in Britain as the daughter of King Coel, and follows her life throughout her marriage, and divorce, and describes her struggles, dreams, and triumphs with her family and the important events she witnessed and took place in as well as daily life activities. The fact that she was a British princess, as it is written in the book, is believed to be highly unlikely although Waugh chose to use this in the story.
She meets her future husband, Constantius Chlorus in her father’s court while he is on a secret mission. The two are married only a few days later, and move to Nish where their son Constantine is later born. During Constantius’ career, he was away from their home for long periods of time and he and Helena grew farther and farther apart. When Constantine was 17, and after Constantius had become Caesar, He remarried for political reasons without telling Helena, divorced her, and sent Constantine off for his education in Nicomedia much to her dismay.
The book briefly follows the next thirteen years, where Helena is living in her villa in Dalmatia. She later moves to Igal near Trier when Constantine is made Emperor, and meets her grandson Cripus’ tutor, Lactantius. Helena, who has been searching for true faith, begins to show an interest in Christianity. The book then describes what it must have been like for Helena to hear the events of the famous battle at the Milvian Bridge, where Constantine saw the vision of a bright, glowing cross in the sky, and the Greek words "Εν Τούτῳ Νίκα" which...