I had been studying Ancient History in senior high school. I sort of enjoyed it, but it was still school work. Then over the summer I read this book,...moreI had been studying Ancient History in senior high school. I sort of enjoyed it, but it was still school work. Then over the summer I read this book, and feel so heavily in love with Ancient Greece that I have never looked back. It was my first love and is still strong.
I went on to read many of Mary Renault's books, and prefer Fire From Heaven (about Alexander's youth) and Last of the Wine (about Athens during the Peloponnesian War and about Socrates) but this book maintains a special place in my hearat. I also went on to study Ancient Greek history at university.
Beloved Pilgrim; what a tremendous read. This is not just a ‘romance’ or ‘lesbian story’, this is a gritty look at real warfare, and what life was tru...moreBeloved Pilgrim; what a tremendous read. This is not just a ‘romance’ or ‘lesbian story’, this is a gritty look at real warfare, and what life was truly like in the Middle Ages, warts and lice and sword slices and all. It has so much in it. It is written by someone who obviously knows the period intimately; you almost feel it is written by someone who has lived through the period. It isn’t full of extended descriptions of what each tiny little thing looks like, to remind us that this is set in an “historical time”, but is written as if the reader already knows what it looks and feels like, as if the period written of were contemporary to the reader. By doing so we really feel the period, we don’t simply see it.
The story is, to put it simply, about a woman, Elisabeth, who pretends to be a man – she dresses up as her twin brother – so she can escape the limited life of a woman, and live the far more adventurous and exciting life of a man, a crusading knight, to be precise. She chooses this life in an attempt to find her father who has not returned from the previous crusade, and by so doing escapes the arranged marriage her father left for her.
But this is no simple adventure story, Biggles in Medieval garb. This is not full of shiny knights in armour, or pretty girls romping in the hay. Once Elisabeth begins her adventure she discovers that men have it tough as well as women. She discovers the horror, disgust, grit and dirt of real warfare. As such the book is showing us that warfare in the Middle Ages is as horrific as it is in the modern world.
Having this twist of the woman pretending to be a man achieves two things. It is an interesting look at how women dealt with the inequities of medieval society, and by analogy how women in non-western societies do the same today. Also, by having a woman in the middle of the awful reality of war, but having that woman dressed as a man, the reader is enabled to look at the scene from a woman's perspective and not the perspective of a medieval soldier. As we are modern readers we can in turn use Elisabeth's different perspective on medieval warfare to allow us to view it from own modern perspective, and so see the horror of it.
Elisabeth also spends time in foreign parts and has to deal with the difficulties and prejudices of different races and cultures and different classes.
Woven throughout this are two same-sex love stories, or even three, but they do not take over the whole story but are rather are part of the story of the life of Elisabeth.
Beloved Pilgrim is a tremendous journey and a very rewarding read, which will stay with you long after you have finished it.