Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Must Read: The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease
In a Nutshell: This is another historical fiction book, about an artist who illuminates books for a living during the 14th century. The story talks about his challenges with the church, a love interest, and his relationship with his daughter during a very corrupt and unstable time in history. As he is employed by a local abbey, they ask a female widow to accept him as a lodger while he finishes the work. Their lives all intertwine as he begins a love affair with the widow, Kathryn, and an unresolved murder of an unscrupulous priest brings drama to their front door.
My Take: I enjoyed the historical 14th century texture that is woven through this book. It is a time that is not often written about from a fictional perspective. Also, it reveals what a woman's plight through life was like during medieval times, which was pretty much at the whim and pleasure of the men around them. How they endured and survived in this male dominated world is brought to life in this dramatic story. As much tragedy unfolds, my favorite character in the book is what turned out to be areal historical figure in history, Julian of Norwich, who was the anchoress of that church. Julian was the first woman to write in the English language and who also explored the idea of a female side of God versus only male. Her life, perspective and writings get woven into the tumultuous, tragic plot to add comfort and "breathing space" in the novel. It led me to want to do more research on Julian, herself. Overall, an engrossing read. The love story is heartfelt and sad, and the way the women are treated in this book is just unbelievable. The corruptness of the church is also unbelievable. Ladies, it will make you appreciate the times we live in now, at the very least!