Updated: Dec 21, 2019
From historical non-fiction to historical fiction, I cannot resist including this novel next and it is one that I would wholeheartedly recommend to the historical novel enthusiast. I cannot resist 'a book about a book'. This one centres on a commission for a medieval book of hours and Robyn Cadwallader, not unlike the master craftsmen of the 14th century, carefully and intricately builds layer, upon layer, of this colourful and very human story. My own manuscript revolves around a book of hours and I'm fascinated by these richly illuminated texts. As I said in a review which I wrote previously, it is a novel that should be savoured and read slowly because as well as a great story, there is so much other detail that I found intriguing.
Robyn Cadwallader is such a talented writer who cleverly interweaves multiple points of view in a seamless and effective fashion. I recently had the pleasure of hearing her converse with other historical writers on this subject: the 'lens', the point of view, through which writers choose to tell their stories. For me as a writer it was fascinating because it is a decision I often struggle with. The panel was chaired by Greg Johnston, and included Julian Leatherdale and Belinda Castles, two other skilled historical authors. They shared their ideas about how they went about choosing the appropriate POV character through whom to convey their stories. You can read more about it in my previous blog 'Recipe for a Historical Novel'.
This the review I wrote about 'Book of Colours' in May this year:
'All of life', medieval life, was here in this book. If you are interested in medieval history, and particularly in reading richly textured and immersive historical fiction, this is the novel for you. Robyn Cadwallader does a wonderful job of illuminating the imagined lives of limners' in 14th century London. She successfully interweaves multiple perspectives and, it seems to me, reveals the joys, the heartache and the suffering of her fictional characters with real tenderness and care. I loved the bittersweet love story at the core of this book and the resilience of the people depicted. The 'Book of Colours' was both disturbing and enervating.
I must admit to a particular fascination for mediaeval 'books of hours', so this was a novel that sat close to my heart; I read it slowly, savouring the detailed and vivid descriptions, enjoying Robyn Cadwallader's masterful craftsmanship and the rich images she created through her words. Beautifully written. This is not a book to be rushed!