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The Chain

The Chain

A Story of Faith Seeking Understanding

By Anna Rist

358 pp

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About the Book

Reaching back into the previous century, The Chain tells with insight and humour the story of marital and other vicissitudes of an English Catholic family in a period marked by WWII and its aftermath: the breakup of the British Empire and passing of hegemony to America; the Second Vatican Council; and the social and educational developments of the mid-twentieth century. 

This is the setting for the playing out of the great—arguably the greatest—theme of the conflict between Original Sin passed down through the generations and Grace communicated through the sacraments of the Church. Through vibrantly embodied characters, the reader is invited to enter into souls struggling—with varying outcomes—at an ever-shifting line demarcating Tradition and Modernity. The effect is cathartic. 

The novel is neither didactic nor a surreptitious manual of doctrine, but is instead a carefully orchestrated, realistic story full of symbolism and resonances that speak to its time as also to our time, but beyond them to all times.


“Anna Rist’s novel The Chain vividly and eloquently depicts the struggles and challenges of marriage and family life in the modern world, ever within the ambiance of the Gospel; and casts a beacon into the darkness of sin, illuminating for us the grace of Christ, which alone makes it possible to live in fidelity to truth even amidst great difficulty. It is my hope that this fine work will contribute to a Catholic literary revival in our time.”


Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

The Chain tells the story of a family—partly Catholic, partly Jewish—in the period from the 1930s to the 1970s, seen in retrospect from the present. The narrative welds together major events of this period with the destiny of the family’s members. At a time when ‘family ethics’ have never been more disputed in the Catholic Church, we are offered much experience-based wisdom on courtship, marriage, birth control, pregnancy, childbirth, education, and the good management of child-parent relations. Dissenting opinions also have their say through characters who are secular, Anglican, Jewish, and liberal or lapsed Catholics—though ever in a matrix buttressed by orthodoxy. This is a novel offering face-on guidance for our time on marriage, sin, divorce, conversion, reconciliation, and the Church.”


OP, author of Epiphany: A Theological Introduction to Catholicism

“Beautifully written, The Chain is a family saga of original sin and redemption by grace, where doubt and dissolution—effects of original sin—seem always to be stalking grace. Its scope is grand, encompassing the central events of mid-twentieth century Britain; and its Catholic family is hardly more than a strand holding on through the social and class conflicts of a century brutal for religious belief of any kind. The family’s patriarch, René, the last of an impoverished French Catholic aristocratic line, is living in a different time. The effects of his profligacy reverberate through the lives of his offspring, who are mainly girls. Written from the point of view of wives and daughters, The Chain is an engrossing, unsentimental meditation on what it means to believe in God. The finely wrought characters, Edith and Elaine, bearers of grace in the story, are unforgettable. The Chain should take its place as a classic of Catholic fiction.”


Catholic University of America

“Set in England over much of the last century, The Chain follows the fortunes and failures of a family who in each generation variously respond to—or reject—the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage. The author’s magisterial take on so fraught an issue, stems from her ability to explore the texture of family life through the stream of consciousness of her female characters.”


editor of the UK/Eire edition of Magnificat, UK editor of Humanum, and co-director of Second Spring

About the Author

Born a Londoner, Anna Thérèse Rist read Classics and English at Newnham College, Cambridge. On marriage to John Michael Rist, she joined him in Canada, where she taught Classics at St Michael’s College, University of Toronto, later turning her attention to Hellenistic poetry, and studying for her M.Ed (Toronto). As an associate editor of the Canadian Catholic Review, she worked from Britain and also Tuscany, where acquisition of a farmhouse provided material for We Etruscans (Lutterworth 2007). She played critic to many of her husband’s books on Philosophy while herself producing The Mimiambs of Herodas (Bloomsbury 2016), and Festival and Ferial (Kaufman Publishing 2014).

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