Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 12th century Europe
Plot: William Beaumont, a fulling miller’s son, is an
ambitious but unsophisticated young man, whose dream is to study medicine at a
university. When he catches sight of
Alicia Bearham, niece to the nobility, he falls madly in love. Surprisingly, Alicia returns his feelings,
and even more improbably, her family – far from warning him to keep his
distance – invites him to accompany them on a pilgrimage to Spain. Her family is unfortunately connected to one
of the men who murdered Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and must expiate
its guilt (although Henry II, who instigated the crime – “Will no one rid me of
this turbulent priest?” - escapes significant punishment) in order to regain
its reputation. William and his companions experience many
adventures and dangers in France and Spain before returning to England.
Audience: Fans of Judith Merkle Riley; armchair travelers; those planning or dreaming of a pilgrimage.
My Impressions: I was attracted to this book
by the cover, which has a Pre-Raphaelite look despite its 12th century setting,
and the author’s obvious passion for pilgrimages. I was reminded of a book called Mount Joy by Daisy Newman I read many years ago about a young woman who leaves a college like Radcliffe to go
on pilgrimage (until I looked it up on Goodreads moments ago I didn’t recall she also traveled
to Santiago de Compostela). In fact, I
was surprised to read that pilgrims still travel to Santiago de Compostela in huge numbers (250,000 in 2010); I had thought there were more obvious destinations such as Rome and the Holy Land.
I did feel strongly the manuscript
needed an editor. The anachronistic language
was very jarring and could easily have been avoided (“Hey, Will, are you
alright?” “Still fancy her, do you?” “Is this why you’ve been so insecure about
us?” and so on. The concept of a medical
“internship” may have existed in the 12th century but not by that name, and at one point I swear the
characters went to lunch!). William was more interesting when passionate about healing than when infatuated with Alicia. Their rhapsodic utterances to each other were repetitive.
However, Sylvia Nilsen is
knowledgeable and enthusiastic about her subject. She has
been the editor for a travel guide publisher and her company, amaWalkersCamino, takes small groups of pilgrims on the Camino Frances pilgrimage route
in Spain. She also walked from Paris to
Spain to do the research for this book. For
more information on Sylvia Nilsen, please visit her website.
You can also find her on Facebook.
Source: I received this book from the HistoricalFiction Virtual Book Tours and urge you to stop by the tour to learn more about
the author and see what other bloggers had to say about this book.
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