Sunday, February 3, 2013

Book Review, February 3, 2013: Brother Cadfael

Madame L has never been disappointed by any of the Brother Cadfael books. (Remember when Madame L wrote some harsh words about one of the books in another series by another author whose books Madame L has usually enjoyed? Well, none of that here.)

Brother Cadfael is a lowly monk in a Benedictine order in western England in the Twelfth Century. He mostly takes care of his garden of herbs, and the people he can cure with those herbs, but he also solves a lot of mysteries. 

Madame L has enjoyed these books for years, but just now, as she was writing this post, she read what Wikipedia has to say about Brother Cadfael and his creator, Ellis Peters. 

And what a lot she has learned! For one thing, Madame L has been pronouncing the good monk's name wrong all this time. (That "f" in his name is pronounced more like a "v," for instance.) For another, it turns out that Ellis Peters is a woman, Edith Mary Pargeter, who was also a linguist and translator (Czech to English).  

Madame L thinks these books are so enjoyable and even uplifting (unlike way too many murder mysteries) not just because of their historical accuracy, twisting plots, and great characters (especially Brother Cadfael but also the other monks, who are so human and funny in their unwanted humanity).

No, Madame L thinks, the books are so good because of the truths they tell, through those means, about all of us. Case in point: the final three paragraphs of "The Sanctuary Sparrow":

     "'Whatever she did of worst,' said Cadfael soberly, 'came of that in her that might have been best, if it had not been maimed. She was much wronged.'

     "'Old friend,' said Hugh, shaking his head with rueful affection, 'I doubt if even you can get [character's name] into the fold among the lambs. She chose her way, and it's taken her far out of reach of man's mercy, if ever she'd lived to face trial. And now, I supposed,' he said, seeing his friend's face still thoughtful and undismayed, 'you wil tell me roundly that God's reach is longer than man's.'

     "'It had better be,' said Brother Cadfael very solemnly, 'otherwise we are all lost.'"

Yes, the truths about all of us, and also about God's  "long reach" which saves us all from being lost.

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