As I have been studying the Middle Ages, I knew I had to be fair and read these tales from Arabia, and not just stick to the western stories I prefer....moreAs I have been studying the Middle Ages, I knew I had to be fair and read these tales from Arabia, and not just stick to the western stories I prefer. I had mixed feelings about this book. In its favor, it is the best version of the "thousand-and-one tales" I've encountered, and I'm inclined to enjoy Andrew Lang's take on any "fairy stories" because of his importance in the life of C.S. Lewis. I believe he made quite a few changes to certain elements of the originals (while preserving their essentials) in order to make the storytelling relevant to our time and part of the world. Several of the stories were absolutely enchanting, and I felt that I, like the sultan, would have kept Sheherezade around to find out what happened next. Others of the stories, like the tales of Sindbad the sailor for example, did not appeal to me at all (not enough character development or plot line, although I suppose that is too much to expect from fairy tales). Unfortunately, those parts of the book made me feel like I was back in school again, being forced to read something for a class and wishing for it to be over. However, I know that it really does represent an excellent achievement in literature, and I can appreciate Lang's abilities and admit that my apathy is a matter of personal preference rather than a reflection of the quality of the work.(less)
This story deserved more of a 3.5, but I really enjoy Peters' writing style so I rounded up. Like the second book, Monk's Hood is filled with lots of...moreThis story deserved more of a 3.5, but I really enjoy Peters' writing style so I rounded up. Like the second book, Monk's Hood is filled with lots of details of both monastic and politico-cultural life in 12th century Britain, and I found myself picturing the changing scenery as Cadfael traveled through Wales. Toward the end I felt he showed a bit less maturity in moral and spiritual matters than Peters meant to convey, but I still found it a good and enjoyable read, and would revisit it if going through the series again. (less)
Reading this book was my rebellious way of escaping from my middle ages "reading list" without wholly leaving the middle ages, and I am heartily glad...moreReading this book was my rebellious way of escaping from my middle ages "reading list" without wholly leaving the middle ages, and I am heartily glad for it. It really was excellent--the only complaint I had was that it was a little hard to get into, because it was so historically dense and unassuming in tone--it didn't exactly start with a "bang"--and the font was miniscule! Perhaps I was expecting this book to be as undemanding to read as many mystery novels are--even by great authors like Agatha Christie and Elizabeth Peters. It wasn't, but the complexities it contained were rich and rewarding historically, emotionally, and even spiritually. As far as the "whodunnit" aspect, it was well crafted and well resolved, and Ms. Peters even made room for some very sweet romance. Her characters were real, which is hard to do with overlapping genres like period fiction plus mystery plus romance, and I am as eager to get to know Brother Cadfael and Hugh Beringar better as I am to see Prior Robert and that brown-noser Brother Jerome be humbled a few times over. I am so glad I was advised to begin at the beginning of this series (although the library didn't have book one), since I was prepared to pick up book 20, which had the highest rating. What a tragedy that would have been, because I assuredly would have realized I ought to have read the whole series, and I would have spoiled the ending for myself. Looking forward to more from Ellis Peters, here are two favorite quotes from this book:
"It takes half a lifetime to reach the spot where eternity is always visible, and the crude injustice of the hour shrivels out of sight."
"God disposes all. From the highest to the lowest extreme of a man's scope, wherever justice and retribution can reach him, so can grace."(less)