To Calais, In Ordinary Time by James Meek

To Calais, In Ordinary Time

James Meek

This book is a time machine. It's like stepping into the pages if an illustrated medieval Book of Hours. A peasant, a serf, a highborn lady and a knight embark on a journey with a group of archers, a captive and a notary. Each carries their own guilt, passion and ambition. Each sheds their role in a feudal society along the way. But the Black Death is coming to meet them. A compelling tale - and I found the language quickly became familiar.

Extract

Will fared to the high road. He wiped his eyes and nose with his sleeve. He looked one way and the other. Flies stirred about his head. He sat by the wayside, pitched a twig in the dust, looked up at the sun and made marks near the twig the length of its shadow. The shadow nad crope to the first mark when a pig grunt in the trees behind him.
Under an elm stood Hab. He wore a high-born maid’s gown, made of the cloth Sir Guy had shown Will, gold and white and sewn with blossoms, and a maid’s white headcloth. By his side the boar Enker cast his snout about balefully. The pig was shod for a far fare.
'You’ll hang' said Will.
'You greet a maid roughly on first meeting.' said Hab
'You’re no maid. You’re Hab the pigboy and you wear a wedding gown you stole of the lady Bernadine.'
'You mistake,' said Hab. 'Hab’s not here. I’m his sister Madlen. Ne deem you me winly in silk and gold?'

Parallels
  • Pilgrims by Matthew Neale
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman

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