Oxford Bookworms Library: Level 4: A Morbid Taste for Bones1400 Headwords ペーパーバック – 2007/12/20
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Murder in the twelfth century is no different from murder today. There is still a dead body, though this time with an arrow through the heart instead of a bullet. There is still a need to bury the dead, to comfort the living - and to catch the murderer.
When Brother Cadfael comes to a village in the Welsh hills, he finds himself doing all three of those things. And there is nothing simple about this death. The murdered man's daughter needs Cadfael's help in more ways than one. There are questions about the arrow. And the burial is the strangest thing of all . . .
The external environment is the ongoing struggle between Empress Maude and King Stephen. We also have references to the different societies as they travel to Wales. These become more relevant as the series progresses. The inward struggle between faith and power is depicted as an individual monk is persuaded or wants to be persuaded to go on a mission to retrieve a neglected saint.
If you saw the movie you will immediately see the differences between it and he book. One main point is the fact that the monk was cured before the trip. The best difference is reviled with the detection and solution to the mystery.
In this first novel in a series of 21 mysteries, "A Morbid Taste for Bones," one of Brother Cadfael's fellow monks sees a vision of the Welsh Saint Winifred pleading for her remains to be transported to their Shrewsbury Abbey, where she will be properly venerated--and the abbey will prosper from the pilgrims attracted to her relics.
(Saint Winifred was an actual 7th century Welsh Christian who was decapitated by a frustrated suitor. Her head was re-attached to her body by her uncle, another Welsh saint, and Winifred returned to life and became a nun and an abbess at Gwytherin in Denbigshire.)
Cadfael is skeptical about the convenient vision, but is sent along with the monks who are tasked to acquire Saint Winifred's bones from her grave, because he is a native Welsh speaker.
The monkish party makes the pilgrimage to Gwytherin only to find many of the villagers passionately opposed to losing their saint. A murder is committed, and Brother Cadfael must sift through the many possible suspects, both English and Welsh. His past life as a ship's captain and Crusader is skillfully woven into this 12th century whodunit, as is the rich tapestry of everyday life on the Welsh border. This book's ending was satisfying on many levels, not just the discovery of the murderer. Once I read "A Morbid Taste for Bones" I was hooked on the whole series, and both my husband, a medieval history major, and I have read and reread the Cadfael books many times.
It seemed a good time to try reading the novels the TV show was made from, and I am reading them in order. In this first book, we meet the occupants of the Dominican abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. First and foremost, we meet Brother Cadfael. He's a Welshman, and before becoming a monk, he was a soldier. This makes him much more worldly-wise than his fellow monks. He's also a little more tolerant of sinners than most of his fellows.
He can be disappointed by his fellow humans, as he is sometimes in this book. He is sent to Wales, as translator for a group sent there to bring the bones of Saint Winifred back to the monestary.
I found this novel every bit as enjoyable as the TV series. Ellis Peters drew a believable portrait of Medieval England. It might not be the same as you learned in school. It certainly isn't the Medieval England I was taught about in school! But since I was in school, we've learned more, and indeed the people of that time were every bit as clever as we are today. The voices in the novel sound reasonably modern to my ear. Since this is not work of scholarship, I will admit to being glad of that. It is a book for modern people, even if it is about medieval people.
Ellis Peters (the pen name of Edith Mary Pargeter) starts out very slowly and after about 10 pages of going on about Cadfael’s herb garden at the monastery I was about to toss the book into my library donation bag. However, sticking with it paid off as the plot picked up steam and the story got interesting enough to hold my interest. This is not a fast paced, action packed kind of story but rather a more measured and cerebral work like you’d expect from Agatha Christie of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Relatively short at 255 pages this tidy mystery makes for a quick but entertaining read. I’m going to give the second in the series of 20 a try. If you like historical fiction and the Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom then Brother Cadfael might be for you. 3.5 Stars.