To Calais, in Ordinary Time

 

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GoodReads:
Three journeys. One road.
England, 1348. A gentlewoman is fleeing an odious arranged marriage, a Scottish proctor is returning home to Avignon and a handsome young ploughman in search of adventure is on his way to volunteer with a company of archers. All come together on the road to Calais.
Coming in their direction from across the Channel is the Black Death, the plague that will wipe out half of the population of Northern Europe. As the journey unfolds, overshadowed by the archers’ past misdeeds and clerical warnings of the imminent end of the world, the wayfarers must confront the nature of their loves and desires.
A tremendous feat of language and empathy, it summons a medieval world that is at once uncannily plausible, utterly alien and eerily reflective of our own. James Meek’s extraordinary To Calais, In Ordinary Time is a novel about love, class, faith, loss, gender and desire—set against one of the biggest cataclysms of human history.

 

My Review

This is a testament to the detail and research Meek has done. The novel is brimming with the nuances and vernacular of 1348 and it reads so atmospherically because of that, that you feel you are in the time period.

This also means though that it took me a while to get into a rhythm when reading this book because of the medieval vernacular. This also made me lose focus on the story itself at times, which was a shame as the story was quite a remarkable one. A group of archers, a proctor, a runaway noble, and a mysterious brother and sister [no spoilers from this gal!] are all pulled into events that seem inescapable. The plague feels as if it’s chasing them in a way, always on its heels and it gives a nice feeling of tension while you’re reading, always wondering when it would catch up with them.

There are diverse characters in terms of personalities and orientations. Hab, in particular, captured my interest and was probably my favorite character.

At times it was rather hard to feel sympathetic for the characters who were of the noble class, but I have to hand it to Meek, they were accurately portrayed. In those times they did truly think themselves superior to their serfs/servants/workers.

Because of the effort to remain true to its origins, it was, at times, hard to connect with the characters, much the same reason for the distraction from the story; the writing style and atmosphere of 1348.

The middle part really lagged for me, but getting to the last third or so of the book, it felt like everything just paced so well and you wanted to know how this was going to turn out. This is a book to read in leisure and I highly recommend it to those with a love of historical fiction.

I applaud Meek on the work he’s put into this.

Three and a half cups of coffee from me!

This book is available as of today, so, HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY!

Thank you to Canongate for a copy of this book to read in exchange for my honest review.

Buddha Da Review

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GoodReads:
Anne Marie’s dad, a Glaswegian painter and decorator, has always been game for a laugh. So when he first takes up meditation at the Buddhist Center, no one takes him seriously. But as Jimmy becomes more involved in a search for the spiritual, his beliefs start to come into conflict with the needs of his wife, Liz. Cracks appear in their apparently happy family life, and the ensuing events change the lives of each family member.

My Review

Reading the synopsis I was intrigued by Buddha Da and I felt the need to see what exactly made up this book. Was it a book of spiritual growth? Was it more like the Glaswegian Eat, Pray, Love? Or was I about to find myself learning more about Buddhism than ever before? [And to be frank, it wouldn’t be that hard, my knowledge of it is minimal]

I can happily say it was a little of all of that and completely different than I expected, all rolled into one.

The story swivels from three POVs of the family members, Jimmy our Buddha Da, Liz his wife, and Anne Marie his daughter.  But the POVs do tend to stick more with Liz and Anne Marie.

Jimmy has felt a need to change something in him, and at first, all he thinks is that he is enjoying a bit of meditation, a man notorious for never finishing his projects, no one imagined he would take Buddhism to heart so much more than anything else. However, he’s met by resistance from his wife as he goes deeper into a world she can’t follow, her own journey is on a different path.

This isn’t just a book about the division of a family, and it’s not that Buddhism is the cause of it, it’s how people so often can change and sometimes it’s necessary to make a few mistakes along the way to do so. It’s a coming of age story of Anne Marie, it’s a spiritual journey for Jimmy, and it’s a journey to desires of the heart and mind for Liz.

I really loved this book and it made me quite the sentimentalist while reading it, and I can honestly say I love how the characters all had to find out their own truths without anyone giving them answers. The ending was perfect and I enjoyed reading this so much I knocked it out in a day.

If you’re a fan of books all about personal journeys and don’t have a problem with understanding Glaswegian speak [ 😉 ] then I recommend this book to you!

Four cups of coffee from me! This new paperback edition is stunning as well so doesn’t hurt to have a pretty book inside & out.

Thank you to Canongate Books for sending me a copy to read and review in exchange for my honest opinion.