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Below the Salt

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  495 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Time was strangely rolled back 700 years so that he was hearing an account of those stirring, violent events in England and Europe that led to Magna Charta and thus contributed so much to the liberties of future generations: with a story, most of it straight from history, of a lost princess and the recovery of a lost charter.
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published August 1st 1957 by Doubleday (first published 1957)
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Misfit
Costain's tale begins as Richard O'Rawn, a powerful U.S. Senator, contacts aspiring author John Foraday out of the blue and invites him to travel along with him. The Senator tells John about Richard Rawen, who as a young boy is sent to serve as squire in the household of William Marshal. He eventually becomes a knight second to none but the Marshal himself and he is sent on a mission of great secrecy to Brittany where he meets Eleanor, daughter of Geoffrey Plantagenet and known to all as The Pea ...more
David
Apr 28, 2009 David added it
One of the first books I read as a kid. I was about 12. It was an excellent book. I loved the history in it. I loved the story.
Christy
I loved this book SOOOO much as a teenager, I have to give it 5 stars. I'd be interested to read it now and see if it holds up well.
Michael Joosten
Below the Salt was a casual addition of my library, a chance encounter at a library book sale that added ballast to a "buy by the bag."

It was... weird. Henceforth, there will be (mild? I have no real sense of potency here) spoilers:

The vibe of Below the Salt is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, crossbread with Ivanhoe, updated a little, though not quite as much as it might have been. The book opens in the 1950s, but apart from the wide growth of airplanes, it could as easily have bee
...more
Judy
Sep 02, 2010 Judy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction
About ten years ago, I decided I would like to learn the history of England. I got a straight ahead history text, started to read and soon gave up, defeated by the dry recitation of kings and battles. Such decisions have a way of infecting a life however. Because of the preponderance of historical fiction on the bestseller lists of the 1940s and 1950s, I have begun to get familiar with English history after all. Thomas Costain has been a key writer over these decades.

Costain is a wonderful hist
...more
Madeline
I read this book because I'd heard it was about time travel. As it turns out, it's about a guy who lived in the Middle Ages and then got reincarnated into modern day (which at the time the story was written was 1957). At least, I think that was how it worked.
Anyway, the story's main character is John Foraday, who tags along with a guy named Richard O'Rawn to his ancestral castle in Ireland. Not bad so far, if a bit dull. But then the plot switches completely and what could be a whole new book st
...more
Catalina
I liked this book but didn't love it. The author is a very good writer. He has a lot of interesting ideas and expresses them well. I thought the ending was rather abrupt and unsatisfying, but that didn't ruin the book for me. The beginning was a little slow, though the pace did pick up. The author's tying together of the Magna Carta and the American democratic system, I suspect, was a key reason that he wrote the book in the first place.
Michael A
Told by an unknown person until the end of the story the story relates how a young man journeyed out of England and earned his fame and fortune thru trials that are now a bit clichéd but then had not been overworked in books and movies. The basic concept deals a bit with reincarnation hpw gthe past affects a young man today in his coming of age.
Laura Bosch
Loved. Riveting. The incarnation bit was strange, but taken as part of the fiction, quite a neat plot twist. Want to reread as it's probably 15 years ago I read this.
William
It took me awhile to get through this one. I love history and I've always enjoyed historical fiction and while Costain is very good at developing characters and keeping the fictional aspect compelling (as well as from hampering historical accuracy…I guess), his "matter of fact" style in relaying certain events is a bit dry and can sometimes bog down the plot and make the reading almost text book-esque. The story within (or in this case with-out) the story is a bit superfluous, but does tie every ...more
Susan Daly
Jul 13, 2010 Susan Daly rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like sweeping novels of Medieval Europe.
I read it back as a teenager and remembered enjoying Costain's historicals, so when I got the opportunity to record it for the CNIB's Talking Books library a few months ago, I took it.

Now, some 40 years after the first reading, I find the writing style pedantic and dated, but the story holds up pretty well. I could do entirely without the modern framing, but it looks like Costain had a message to deliver, about Democracy = A Good Thing.

And when recording books, it's always fun to have a lot of d
...more
Dee Anne
It was interesting enough to keep reading, but was definitely slow. I felt at times though that I was reading a Thomas Hardy novel where nothing good ever happens to the main characters. I can see the concern of the author that we don't appreciate the freedoms that we have, but I feel like this theme wasn't nearly strong enough in the book. It gets lost somewhere in Tostig's story and we only get a peek every once in awhile. I feel like there was a lot of extra stuff that just didn't contribute ...more
Karen
I started enjoying this book around page 200. It was actually a very interesting story about characters surrounding the signing of the Magna Carta, but it took a long time for any character development to occur. The "story within a story" approach was a little burdensome, but I can see that the author was attempting to make a point about an old story's relevance today with that technique. Overall, I can't say that I recommend it, but I'm also glad that I read it I suppose.
Jim Puskas
This was the one of the first of Costain's many books that books that I began reading way back in the sixties and it is certainly one of his best. Its vivid description of 11th century Britain and Ireland, the dramatic events of that era and Costain's fascinating characters, both real and fictitious make this a memorable story and one that I recently found to be just as engaging today upon re-reading it as is was many years back. A historical novel in the very best sense.
Jessica
although i thought that this book could have ended about 6 different times, the overall storyline was interesting...i could not follow the last chapter or two, where the old man is talking with john and there was the woman and stuff--i had no idea...i did find a couple of interesting lines/quotes/comparisons...but, i can't disclose them here as i need something to talk about at bookclub!!!
Andrea Zsigmond
I found this book extremely difficult to get into, but once past the first hundred pages or so, it gets into the 'guts' of the story which is the best part. I enjoyed this overall. It's interesting what the title actually is referring to. I was unaware of what the phrase "Below the salt" actually meant - so I definitely learned something new with this read.
Holly
This book within a book is a little bit too wordy in the outside story, although the story within is more interesting. It was difficult to look past all the historical inaccuracies surrounding the profound event of the signing of the Magna Charta, although it did cause me to learn more about the history of the charter.
Sheila Powell
This book was written in the late 1950's and the style of writing is so different from today's historical novels. It is about a young page who was in the household of William Marshal who died in 1219 and very much wished to emulate him. The story is about his adventures and is a very good read.
Barbara
Time warp plus the Plantagenets, King John and Arthur of Brittany. Settings include England, Ireland and France. The historical adventure is as exciting as ever--Costain was a master of that. The "modern" setting (1950's) didn't age as well as the historical. But still a really good read.
Tammy
Some sort of mystery is brewing in this book from 1957 (time travel perhaps), but it read so slow I never got that far. May try it again later. Sometimes its the book, sometimes its the mood I'm in. Was highly recommended by a patron so will probably give it another chance.

Joy
The story-within-a-story is a little hard to get into, at first. I think if I was more familiar with British history I would have understood what was going on sooner. It brought back vague memories of middle school classes on the Magna Charta which I had totally forgotten!
H.h. Viens
This was originally published back in the 1960's, which was when I read it. Not a deep novel, but if you like historical novels with a little bit of a fantasy/sci-fi twist its a fun read. I enjoyed it tremendously at the time, but I was maybe 15.
Gail
I read this perhaps a hundred years ago. It's a great story of medieval times, filled with accurate portrayals of what it was like to live then. A wonderful read and a painless way to get a real feel for the times (constant cold comes to my mind).
Kelli
Jan 12, 2009 Kelli added it
Well I can't say to much about this book. I did not finish it, I had a hard time reading this one. I go t board with it very easy. I am not a big fan of these kinds of book. I hope book club will make it more interesting. No Stars!!!
Diane
I read this years ago and loved it. Then for years couldn't remember the title just that it was something about going back in time and the Magna Carta. Finally with advances in searching and cataloging I was able to find it again. Yippie!
Joel Fair
I thought this was a good book but not as good as the Silver Chalice. I was expecting more and was a little let down but it might just be that I enjoyed the content of the Silver Chalice more. Still, I well written and enjoyable book.
Wendy
Loved reading about a time so long ago. It was interesting to get a glimpse into the social classes and life in general during the time of Prince John and the Plantagenets(Historical fiction)
Kathy  Petersen
Costain tells a fine story but great length. The historical fiction is wrapped within a modern day romance, a nice device but it would have benefited from a tighter construction.
Christine
I read a bunch of Thomas B. Costain in high school, and vaguely recall that this was the last one I read and it was not as good as the Plantagenet series.
Hal
Aug 22, 2007 Hal rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: fiction
Excellent book about the signing of the Magna Carta, or The Great Charter, for all y'all non latin speakers out there. I would recommend it to anyone.
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Costain was born in Brantford, Ontario to John Herbert Costain and Mary Schultz. He attended high school there at the Brantford Collegiate Institute. Before graduating from high school he had written four novels, one of which was a 70,000 word romance about Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange. These early novels were rejected by publishers.

His first writing success came in 1902 when the Brantford
...more
More about Thomas B. Costain...
The Silver Chalice The Black Rose The Last Plantagenets (The Plantagenets, #4) The Conquering Family (The Plantagenets, #1) The Three Edwards (The Plantagenets, #3)

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