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.
Petronius was a Roman writer. Yep, actually at the time. He was a friend of Nero’s, hanging out in his set. I think Nero may have had him killed in th...morePetronius was a Roman writer. Yep, actually at the time. He was a friend of Nero’s, hanging out in his set. I think Nero may have had him killed in the end, when he (Nero) was going on his standard paranoid-autocrat’s-rampage of killing everyone off.
If you read this book you will get an idea of why conservative Romans didn’t like Nero. This story is debauched, hedonistic and so openly gay, in both senses of the word.
What I especially like about this is – apart from it being such a rollick – is that it shows all of us from the post-christian era just what it was like in the days before homosexuality became a sin. Sure, the conservative Romans didn’t like homosexuality all that much, well at least for the patrician class, but they didn’t consider it a sin. You can get that feeling by reading this. It is unique, it is strange, to read about a time when expression of same-sex feelings was so free.(less)
This book opened my eyes to how the world is viewed by different classes. It made me realise I was viewing the world from my comfortable middle class...moreThis book opened my eyes to how the world is viewed by different classes. It made me realise I was viewing the world from my comfortable middle class home. Jean Genet talks of his childhood and his life of crime and how differently he viewed it to the way we did. He showed how the laws of a country are made by the middle classes to protect the middle classes and so are only observed by the middle classes. If you live outside that middle class world the laws no longer are relevant to you and so there is little reason to obey them.
People do not disobey the laws because they "want" to or because they are "bad" but because their needs clash with the laws. Needs are stronger than laws. If your need demands you break a law, then that law no longer is seen as relevant to you - it no longer protects you but endangers you - so you will break it.
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.