Monday, October 4, 2010


Sometimes I feel like I have just discovered something everyone else in the world already knows. It makes me feel a bit stupid, but just in the off chance that one of you, like me, had never been privy to this author and her wonderful series of books about Brother Cadfael, it is to you that I aim this blog.

A month or so ago Abebooks sent out a great list of non-religious books that nevertheless had a theme of religion somewhere in them -- I don't know that I would exactly call it a genre but each book has religion as an integral part of its plot. Giliad by Marilynn Robinson is a good example of this kind of book. And Susan Howatch has a great Starbridge series with a Church of England setting. Probably of all the novels I read, these with a religious orientation are my favorites.

But somehow the little books by Ellis Peters, which actually is the nom de plume of English novelist Edith Pargeter, had totally escaped my radar -- until I saw them noted on the Abebook list. Initially what caught my eye was the lovely graphic cover, as well as the little blurb that says, "The Third (or First, or Eighth) Chronicle of Brother Cadfael, of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, at Shrewsbury." Now how could a person resist giving these books a whirl?

They've been out a relatively long time, going back at least to the 1980s. I decided to start at the beginning (always a good place to start but often not) and my resourceful local library system was able to reach into the Palm Springs library and produce Book #1 for me. I immediately was hooked.

I am pacing myself on these - one a month. I just finished the Third Chronicle called "Monk's Hood" (which actually is a plant that is poisonous.) Now I will wait until November to go after the Fourth Chronicle.

The setting is in Shrewsbury, England, and in nearby Wales in the 1100s. The book is light and easy reading; nevertheless the plots, being set in such a time and place unfamiliar to me, just keep roiling along, thickening as they go. My friend Nancy told me that a TV series was made of these books. Not being a TV watcher, nor not having much available in the way of cable service, it is possible that they were and I just missed it. But even so, I am better off for not having seen it on TV, as it would have spoiled many a night of delicious reading.

Just in case this is all new to you and you think you might want to give these books a try, go for it! You likely will be as captivated as I am with the little Monk and his mysteries.

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