Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Morbid Taste for Bones: The First Chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters

Where has the summer gone? Even though the temperatures are still in the 90's, we are jumping right into fall activities, and I should probably blog about the books I read in July before August escapes me. So while I was entertained, but not particularly impressed with Percy Jackson, I absolutely loved the other series that I started, thanks to the recommendation of Caniad at Dwell in Possibility.

A Morbid Taste for Bones: The First Chronicle of Brother CadfaelAs I've said before, mysteries are my preferred genre, and I think they are perfect for summer reading - engaging enough to keep my brain active, but not so heavy (literally or figuratively) that I can't breeze through one (or two) during a weekend vacation or finish one between picking and canning tomatoes! The Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters is near perfection, in my opinion, combining medieval history, a fairly complex mystery, theology, and even a little romance!

Since Caniad has already provided a great introduction to the author and the series, as well as a succinct summary of the plot in her post on A Morbid Taste for Bones, I'll simply give you my favorite passages and call it good. How's that for catching up?

"When you have done everything else, perfecting a conventual herb-garden is a fine and satisfying thing to do. He could not conceive of coming to this stasis having done nothing else whatever." (3)

"'Did you see?' said Brother John in Cadfael's ear, pacing beside the sumpter mule. 'Did you see how the beasts laboured towards that fellow not to escape the goad, only to go where he willed, only to please him? And such labour! That I should like to learn!'" (24)

"'In my church,' said Huw humbly, 'I have never heard that the saints desired honour for themselves, but rather to honour God rightly.'" (28)

"Well, thought Cadfael, letting them go without him, and turning to meet Sioned's steady gaze, God sort all! As doubtless he is doing, now as ever!" (85)

"'Speak out,' said the prior, not unkindly. 'You have never sought to make light of your failings, I do not think you need fear our too harsh condemnation. You have been commonly your own stearnest judge.' So he had, but that, well handled, can be one way of evading and forestalling the judgements of others." (95)

". . .great violence had been done to what he knew to be right, and great requital was due from the sinner, and great compassion due to him." (142)

"'. . .and if God aids me with some new thought - for never forget God is far more deeply offended even than you or I by this great wrong! - I'll come to you there.'" (147)

"'And leave agonising too much over your sins, black as they are, there isn't a confessor in the land who hasn't heard worse and never turned a hair. It's a kind of arrogance to be so certain you're past redemption.'" (151)

Almost all of these demonstrate what I love best about the Brother Cadfael mysteries: there is wisdom in these pages, not just a good story, and the two combined make them a joy to read!


Caniad said...

Yay! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

Ellis Peters was in her sixties (or beyond) when she started writing the books, and I think the wisdom of years comes through in the stories.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I've never read anything by Ellis Peters (at least that I remember), but it sounds like I need to remedy that!

Pour of Tor said...

I love Cadfael - I think it is just about time that I returned to that series. It's been at least a decade since I read an Ellis Peters.

Speaking of medieval romances, have you read Ariana Franklin's "Mistress of the Art of Death" books, about a medieval autopsist? I am loving them, and they are proving to be very successful recommendations among my friends....

Sherry said...

Oh, yes, this is a lovely series. And the TV movies with Derek Jacobi as Cadfael are very well done, too.