In many ways, The Silver Chalice is a retelling of basic themes in the Christian story in an entertaining and inspirational mode, which appealed to many people in the 1950’s. However, Costain’s narrative has certain particular preoccupations that distinguish it from similar historical novels that seek to retell the narratives contained in the canonical Gospels and the book of Acts. One difference lies in the idea of the chalice itself, and its importance as a symbolic motif of Christian truth.
The pleasing shape of the cup exemplifies the role of aesthetic beauty in Christianity. The stress on the role of the chalice in preserving the Christian legacy and its association with artistic creativity has thematic similarities to Dan Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, though Costain’s materials and his perspectives are vastly more orthodox.
Women play a considerable role in The Silver Chalice. Deborra is a strong female character who is not just the meek ancillary to her husband, Basil, or the male elders of her community. Many of the readers who made The Silver Chalice such a financial success in the early 1950’s were women, and the novel presents enough of an inclusive depiction of early Christian life to avoid becoming confined to a male-oriented action-adventure genre.
Whereas a previous North American novel of Christian beginnings, Lloyd Douglas’s The Robe (1942), depicted...
(The entire section is 445 words.)