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I first became acquainted with Ellis Peters' medieval detective Brother Cadfael through the good offices of the PBS Mystery series, where Cadfael was played by the wonderful Derek Jacobi, who was also responsible for the indelible portrait of the emperor Claudius in the earlier PBS presentation of the BBC series "I, Claudius" (can you believe that was in 1976? I can't!).

After that if my local used book store didn't have any new SF, I would wander over to the mystery section and look for Dexter Colin's "Inspector Morse" books (also discovered thru PBS--anyone see a pattern here?), or Dick Francis, or Tony Hillerman, or Ellis Peters. It is always nice to have a fair number of things to look for, it increases one's chance of a successful hunt. I can't stand the idea of leaving a book store empty handed. So I collected a number of the Cadfael mysteries over the years.

book cover
The First Cadfael Mystery
One day two or three years ago, when I was looking for something pleasant to read I picked up one of the Cadfael mysteries I had on hand, but hadn't read in awhile, and curled up contentedly to immerse myself in Ellis Peters' world. At some point I realized I was wallowing in pure enjoyment: of the words, the world, the characters, the scenery, the story. I realized I needed more, indeed, I needed ALL the Cadfael books! There are 20 Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, plus the ancillary "A Rare Benedictine" all written between 1977 and 1994. Since the books were popular, as the TV series attests, I thought it would be rather easy to acquire them all. I went to my favorite used book store and discovered there was an empty space on the shelf where the books should be--someone had beaten me by a day or two. I went to every bookstore new and used in my area and discovered the same thing was true. Oh dear! Last year, when I got my iPad, I found out they aren't available as ebooks either. Hummphff! I've been checking them out of my three local libraries, although that isn't quite as satisfying. And surprisingly often the one I'm looking for is already checked out, so I have to wait. But I suppose I'm glad folks are still loving Cadfael, just as I do, and I hope that this little essay will bring even more converts to the cause.

The trauma of discovering the bookstores in my area had been cleaned out shortly before I got there, combined with my realization of just how much I enjoyed the books, caused me to start wondering exactly what it was about Cadfael, his world, and Ellis Peters' writing that gave me such enjoyment. This diary is the result of my pondering the question.

First a little about the setting and characters in the books. The time is evidently from 1135 or so, to 1145, with a few tidbits here and there that are earlier, as Cadfael reminisces about his past life. If one also reads "A Rare Benedictine"--which recounts how Cadfael came to be a monk--there is still more earlier material. To put you into that time frame, it is one long life-time after the Norman Conquest of England, in 1066, and a generation before the events involving Henry II and Thomas Beckett, and two generations before Robin Hood. Cadfael's lifetime covered the beginning of the High Middle Ages, after the worst of the barbarian invasions that characterized the dismal post-Roman world (formerly known as the Dark Ages) were over, and before that major shift of human thought brought about by the Renaissance. As epochs in human history go, the High Middle Ages weren't bad. The climate had entered what is generally called "The Medieval Warm Period" which resulted in more land being brought into cultivation and is partially responsible for a significant growth in European population. The end of the worst of the invasions and the development of new, stable social and political institutions to replace the vanished Roman Empire also helped.

What was happening in England during the period covered by the books was a bit rougher than the next period: the Normans had consolidated their power over the English, who might be viewed as an oppressed class. Wales and Scotland were not part of the conquered area, and raiders came over the border to pillage now and again, here and there. Also the succession to the throne of England after the death of Henry I in 1135 was disputed and led to a civil war between his daughter Matilda, called the Empress Maud, and her cousin, King Stephen, a grandson of William the Conquerer. While this led to some bloodshed, it was't quite as much as might be feared, and the disruption in the civil order was somewhat spotty, serious is some areas, not bad in others. The civil war drug on for nearly 20 years, with first one then the other contender having the upper hand. It didn't really end until King Stephen died in 1154 and was succeeded by Matilda's son, Henry II.

Returning to Cadfael, we learn that he had come to the religious life rather late, as an experienced, even worldly, middle-aged man. The monastery where he came to rest was located in Shrewsbury, very near the border with Wales. Cadfael himself was Welsh, and spoke both Welsh and English, plus a bit of French and, as a monk, knew some Latin. He was an expert herbalist, and the de facto apothecary for the monastery, in charge of the herb garden and the compounding of medicine for the monks and for the patients of the hospital supported by the monastery. Because of his wide experience of humanity he had become exceptionally perceptive about the nature of people he meets, and approaches everything with a rather easy going tolerance.

Reliquary of Saint Amandus
His best friend is Hugh Beringer, appointed as the Sheriff of Shrewsbury, and thus the law of the land. Think of the Sheriff of Nottingham, only as a good guy, rather than Sheriffs as we know them today. There are a number of notable characters who are Cadfael's fellow monks, including two Abbots, plus an aristocratic Prior and his rather smarmy assistant--who together make the continuing "bad guys"--additional transient villians appear in each case. But perhaps the most unusual character isn't really there at all: Saint Winifred of Wales, dead nearly 500 years. She was introduced in the first book as a major "character" (or perhaps MacGuffin, following Hitchcock's usage), and is present, one way or another, in all the succeeding books. She is there in the form of her reliquary and in the minds of everyone, including Brother Cadfael. In later books he often "talks" to her, and has not the slightest doubt of her reality and kindness.

The plots are not especially tricky or convoluted: a murder is discovered and Cadfael, one way or another, gets involved. Together with his friend Sheriff Beringer the murder is solved and the case brought to a satisfactory, although not always strictly legal, conclusion. Along the way there is generally at least one love story which also needs to be successfully settled, and usually the two plots, murder and love, are intimately intertwined, with the solution of either depending on the solution of both. I find the plots perfectly adequate, they keep my interest and generally surprise me at some point. But it isn't the plots that I love: it is a combination of the characters, the language, the nature of the world Cadfael inhabits, and imagery that is often beautiful, combined with emotional relationships that I find moving and believable.

My formal training was in history, not literature, and whatever artistic talent I have is in the visual arts rather than language arts. So while my tastes in writing may not be as sophisticated as those of many of you, I can and do enjoy language. Here's a sample of a few sentences by Ellis Peters that I particularly enjoyed. They are all from the penultimate book in the series, The Holy Thief, in which Saint Winifred again plays a major role. The page numbers are from the paperback edition:

Crossing the half of Europe overland, long ago, Cadfael had seen gentians in the grass of the mountain meadows, bluer than blue, of the same profound beyond-blue of her eyes.--p 20

But she was not so simple. Women never are, and she was a woman who had experienced more of life than her years would contain.--p 140

Where there's nothing at stake there's no barrier, either. Nothing to join, so nothing to divide them.--p 150

The faint gleam of Tutilo's lamp through the grill high out of her reach fell from above over her face as no more than a glowworm's eerie spark, conjuring out of deep darkness a spectral mask of a face, oval, elusive, with austere carven features, but the remaining light from the west window of the church, hardly less dim, found the large, smoldering luster of her eyes, and a few jeweled points of brightness that were embroidered silver threads along the side hems of her bliaut.--p 198

In thinking about Brother Cadfael's world, as imagined by Ellis Peters, I realized that it reminds me of the world of Pern, as imagined by Anne McCaffrey. In pondering why this was so, and why I enjoy spending time in both worlds, I reached a couple of conclusions that I found interesting.

Aside from both recounting worlds that don't exist, one because it is set in a fictional future of human colonization of other planets, and the other drawing a rather rosy portrait of a world that vanished nearly 900 years ago, it seems to me both have other things in common, besides being "comfort books" for me. Both draw portraits of a world that is in a more human, a more humane scale than our world. People know their neighbors, may have all grown up together, and have many close and diverse relationships with each other. In both worlds a lack of technology means people are much more closely connected to the material world. You can see where your food is coming from: the field down the road is growing the grain that will make the bread you eat, and you may have to get the grain made into flour at the mill on the other side of town, and even make and bake it into bread yourself, or least have helped with such things as a child, and one knows personally those who do such basic work.

Even the characters from whose point of view the stories are told, and with whom we identify, have this in common: they are outsiders, one way or another, and yet manage to become members of a community, while not having to give up their individuality. Thus Cadfael the Welshman, while he doesn't get to go home, nonetheless is accepted in a religious community on the border of Wales, where he is a valuable member of the community and able, sometimes, to visit his homeland. He also frequently deals with fellow countrymen, and even has the "company" of the Welsh saint at all times. So he is an outsider, but in a way has still managed to find his way to a loving home where he is accepted for what he is, and cherished just as he is, and where his unique talents find scope to contribute to the general good.

It is not just the good that is in a human and understandable scale, but the bad as well. In both the Pern and Cadfael series there is evil, but the evil that men do is comprehensible and is stopped, and punished, by good people who are part of the ruling institutions of their society. Perhaps that is the most comforting thing of all about these books.

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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ah...beautiful! Thank you!! (40+ / 0-)


    But it isn't the plots that I love: it is a combination of the characters, the language, the nature of the world Cadfael inhabits, and imagery that is often beautiful, combined with emotional relationships that I find moving and believable.
    I love these books!

    I can imagine I am in Cadfael's garden listening to him talk as he works.  :)

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:12:15 PM PST

  •  You make it sound so interesting! I will have to (26+ / 0-)

    start reading this series. The Pern novels have long been my go to books for comfort reading.  I am so sorry they are not in ebook format.

    Thanks for filling in for me tonight. I was supposed to be driving up to the Twin Cities with my step-daughter to spend Thanksgiving with her kids, but she took a slip on the stairs and disclocated her ankle and broke her fibula in one place and her tibia in two. This is the same daughter who stayed with me when Ed was so sick, so it looks like I will be spending some time in Chicago.

    After a night in the ER, I am heading to bed soon, but wanted to stop by and congratulate you on a delightful read.

    "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

    by Susan Grigsby on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:14:58 PM PST

  •  I love the Cadfael books ... (24+ / 0-)

    after my first trip to Europe, Morbid Taste for Bones was recommended to me to help put some context around all those huge old cathedrals and the reliquaries they all displayed. That was in the late 80s, and I remember the same problem trying to find the books in the stores. Always missing the one I was looking for at the time.

    Also, I love stories about midieval England and Wales...I loved the Brothers Gwynneth Quartet Peters wrote under her real name.

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:18:22 PM PST

  •  Thank You (13+ / 0-)

    We just discovered this both riveting and charming series on Netflix. We are about half way into it and is out guilty TV pleasure of the moment..
    I hope the books will be republished in an ebook format.


    by profewalt on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:25:02 PM PST

  •  I enjoy Cadfael a lot (14+ / 0-)

    I have about half the books, all the DVDs and a number of the Cadfael books recorded by Jacobi.  I got the latter in the UK in a beautiful little bookstore in Tewksbury (or environs).  What really bummed me out was hearing I had missed seeing Jacobi (in the bookstore) by two days.

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:25:30 PM PST

  •  ia British mystery geek and love Cadfael (11+ / 0-)

    I remember watching the series as a young teenager on Mystery! and loving Jacobi in it. I then proceeded to read all of them at the library. I can remember thinking it must have been hell as a woman back then.:)

  •  Thanks for a great review. (14+ / 0-)

    Question:  How was the multi-episode television series? Worthwhile?

    A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

    by Pluto on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:31:59 PM PST

  •  I love the Cadfael series (10+ / 0-)

    and at one point, I owned the entire series (I've since given them away on BookMooch).

    I just started reading Ellis Peters' Inspector Felse mysteries, but so far am finding them a little slow moving. Perhaps once I get to know the characters a little better I'll get hooked. The first of the Inspector Felse books were written in the early 50s; so far the plot is revolving around WWII vets and former Nazi POWs who choose to remain in England.

  •  The movies are so great (11+ / 0-)

    because they really do flow from the books.  So often the movie makers, especially American producers, think they have to add trash to the movie or run away from the plot, but these movies really do bring the books to life.  I had read all of the books before I discovered the movies. ( By the way, they make a great Christmas present!)

    Another series in that time frame is Mistress in the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin which is a totally different sort of mystery, but still very historical and with good plots and interesting characters.  King Henry II is a continuing character in that series.

    We should not be fighting about equal pay for equal work and access to birth control in 2012. Elizabeth Warren

    by Leftleaner on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:45:31 PM PST

    •  Glad to hear you liked the films (6+ / 0-)

      I wasn't sure how one who started with the books would feel, I'm glad what liberties were taken didn't bother you. I hadn't heard of Ariana Franklin, I'll have to check that out. I find Henry II pretty dang interesting, ever since I saw the movie "Beckett" and then "Lion in Winter"--plus, I'll admit it!--reading the whole "Plantagenets" boxed set by Thomas Costain.

      If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

      by pimutant on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 06:17:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There was a bit of time (0+ / 0-)

        between reading the books and watching the movies, so I didn't remember all of the details, which I am sure was helpful in not getting upset about the changes.

        We should not be fighting about equal pay for equal work and access to birth control in 2012. Elizabeth Warren

        by Leftleaner on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 07:00:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, Yes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Mistress in the Art of Death is awesome!

      I've been searching all my libraries for the names of the medieval fiction books I've loved and can't find them. I should look here and give thumbs ups instead.

      They won't save my checkouts for privacy reasons. I wrote down what I was listening to at first in little booklets I made, then started an online list called Books, Books, Books with a check mark at the top of the "liked" list and an X at the top of the "didn't like" list. But eventually I gave up on keeping that up too.

      Anyway, Mistress in the Art of Death is awesome!

      I suddenly started a blog.

      by JG in MD on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 10:35:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, that's frustrating (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        when you remember the plot but not the title or author.

        Another good series is Sharon Newman's series starting with Death Comes as an Epiphany.  It is set in France and includes stuff about the Crusades and problems between Christians and Jews.  So it is a bit later in history, I think around the 15th century.

        We should not be fighting about equal pay for equal work and access to birth control in 2012. Elizabeth Warren

        by Leftleaner on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:59:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nope. (0+ / 0-)

          Catherine Levendeur is a younger contemporary of Cadfael. Newman's novels start in the late 1130's. Remember, Cadfael was a crusader before he was a monk. By the 15th century the Crusades were long over. Some guy named Columbus who badly underestimated the circumference of the Earth took a boat trip in the 15th century.

          Cogito, ergo Democrata.

          by Ahianne on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 06:37:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I have visited Shrewsbury ... (22+ / 0-)

    ... pronounced shrows-burrie, and it is a cute little town in the West Country, although there's precious little left from the time of Good Queen Mab, who was neither particularly good nor a queen.

    The war between Stephen and Matilda was a bizarre continent-wide affair -- her marriage to a knight of Anjou triggered the enmity of many Norman allies. After it was over, Henry II ascended the throne heading up a feudal empire that rivaled the Duchy of Burgundy and exceeded the realm of his liege-lord, the King of France.

    One thing that deserves mention is Brother C's oral tales about the Crusades, where he describes the ugliness of that enterprise rather than the glory.

    Robert, Duke of Normandy, "won" his way to legendary Jerusalem itself, but ended up a prisoner of kinsman Henry I, even though he may have owned a stronger claim to the Crown. Brother C's civil war is easily described as a continuation of that same family fight. Stephen is noted in contemporary annals as a king who "did no justice."

    Millions of us – the majority – must come together to insist that President Obama and the Democrats stand up and fight for the things we sent them there to do ... Michael Moore

    by MT Spaces on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:49:37 PM PST

    •  We drove around in Shrewsbury... (15+ / 0-)

      ...because I got us lost, and we had a terrible time getting back on track for our destination, a small town in Wales. Somehow we kept ending up back in Shrewsbury, sort like walking in circles when you're lost in the woods.

      I had to severely curb my historian's desire to keep adding more and more detail about the period. I think I should have made it clear that the Normans still held LOTS of land in both England and France, and many of the most powerful spent more time in France than in England. I still haven't figured out exactly who the liege lord of Shrewsbury was at the time we're discussing. The original lord had come to a bad end, it may be that King Stephen himself was the lord of the place.

      If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

      by pimutant on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 06:07:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  don't look for Shrewsbury in the West Country! (6+ / 0-)

      Head a little south west of Birmingham (England's second city) in the west Midlands, and indeed almost into Wales.

      'West Country' really starts around the Bristol/Gloucester area, and heads west

      Shrewsbury as a city is fine, but the Abbey was much destroyed in the past and I don't find any sense of history there. A super excuse to go exploring the delights of Shropshire!

      •  It's west of the West End ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JG in MD

        ... of London!

        Sheesh -- micro-geography
        (I used to live in Cornwall -- everyplace else in the UK was "up north," and mostly east of us.)

        Millions of us – the majority – must come together to insist that President Obama and the Democrats stand up and fight for the things we sent them there to do ... Michael Moore

        by MT Spaces on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 10:23:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Shropshire is lovely (4+ / 0-)

        and the English do call it par of The West, as opposed to The South West, which is also The West Country (which includes Cornwall and Devon), or Wessex (though that excludes Cornwall and most of Devon).
        I was lucky enough to visit Shrewsbury Abbey at a time when they were raising money for a new roof by inscribing roof slates. Somewhere up there is the name of my son's fourth grade teacher, a fellow Cadfael fan, and someone who deserves to have her name recorded for posterity.

        "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

        by northsylvania on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 02:14:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The setting is very real (10+ / 0-)

    I too love the Cadfael mysteries, and spent five days in Shrewsbury some years ago walking (and taking a few buses) around all the sites. (It's become a bit touristy, with a brass footprint in the Cadfael-related places in town.) Peters stayed very true to the geography -- if she says it takes 20 minutes to walk from the bridge to wherever, it does.

    The church warden said people come by regularly looking for where Brother Cadfael is buried in the churchyard.

    I watched one on TV and didn't like it -- they played up the romance and left out all the politics and history. And they were filmed in Hungary, not Shropshire and Wales. I'd rather stick to books, thanks.

    •  I feel the same way. The series didn't (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MT Spaces

      come close to the "feel" of the books.

      And sad to say, Derek Jacobi didn't fit my image of Cadfael. I saw him as darker and bigger and more muscular/masculine, even at his older age. Jacobi was TOO old, and too "hesitant."

  •  Fond Memories of Cadfael (10+ / 0-)

    Dad and I used to watch them together by phone waaay  back before we got together as a couple. My marriage to my son's father was falling apart, I'd had knee surgery and was pretty much stuck in bed, and we would watch Cadfael every week during that hard recovery and emotional time on PBS. They will always have a fond place in my mind just for that reason alone. I've not actually read any of the books, though I've watched the series several times now.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 06:15:03 PM PST

  •  I LOVE these!!! (14+ / 0-)

    Note to self... must get more of these to read!

    I was introduced to these by a friend who had been a Franciscan brother for several years before deciding he was not meant to be a priest.  The PBS series and the books are excellent!

    Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

    by mommyof3 on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 06:15:53 PM PST

  •  Availability (13+ / 0-)

    I just checked Alibris,  and they would appear to have most if not all of the Brother Cadfael series. Most of them are priced at $.99. If you want to collect them, this seems to be the way to go. Of course, the shipping runs the price up over  dollar, but they are well worth it.

    Note: I have them all, and have probably read them half a dozen times. I totally agree, they are "comfort reading" par excellence.

    Another excellent book by her is "A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury." It's about the death of King Henry IV.

    My daughter and I spent a week living in a cottage on the Welsh Marches several years ago and really immersed ourselves in the area. It's delightful.

    •  Shipping / ABE (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radarlady, MT Spaces, northsylvania

      I use abebooks more than Alibris, so I can't speak for Alibris.

      On ABE, if you get more than one book from a vendor, usually they give you a discount on the shipping. Often this is done on the assumption that the most you'll be ordering is two.

      If you were to find, say, half-dozen available from the same vendor, it would be worth an email to the vendor to see how much they would charge for shipping the whole bunch.

      The whole cost for ABE, book + shipping, is often quite modest.

  •  A friend turned me on to Brother Cadfael years ago (8+ / 0-)

    My only regret in RACING through the entire series was that it ended all too soon. Skillful and evocative writing, rampant history, engaging characters -- books that left me longing to walk the environs and meet the people.

    I think I know what I'm rereading tonight!!


    by raincrow on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 06:58:06 PM PST

  •  For Ellis Peters fans--she also (12+ / 0-)

    wrote a magnificent trilogy of historical novels   The Heaven Tree, The Scarlet Seed and The Green Branch. The prose is mystical and beautiful, the characters huunt you, and the ending of the third book had me sobbing on the subway in NYC. Like the Cadfael books, it's set on the Welsh border  in the reign of Not DO Good Kinf John, and Great Llewellyn is one of the characters.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 07:32:56 PM PST

  •  loved the books, have never seen the Derek Jacobi (5+ / 0-)

    series. I noticed it on netflix. Now I'll look forward to watching it. (I've rewatched "I, Claudius" a few times. Jacobi is a great choice for a character who exudes brains and calm.)

    Very interesting diary, I loved all the detail. Thanks for reminding me about these books and the series.

    Susan, I hope it's a speedy recovery for your stepdaughter! Ouch.

    "I find myself at a loss for unsubpoenaed words." Stephen Colbert

    by scilicet on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 07:49:49 PM PST

  •  Ah, Ellis Peters (11+ / 0-)

    I loved all the Brother Cadfael novels.  I knew that Ms. Peters was elderly and I was always afraid the novel I was reading would be her last.  It was a sad day when she passed.  There is something simple and good in Brother Cadfael.  

    I recently picked up a book by Craig Johnson, possibly recommended by someone here.  I found The Dark Horse, a Walt Longmire mystery.  I will look for more in the series.  I just finished Poison Flower, the latest in the  Jane Whitefield series by Thomas Perry.  Poor Jane.  In this book she is kidnapped, shot, and tortured before escaping and getting revenge.  Sometimes I think the series has gone too far when the author has to come up with more and more incredible plots, but the revenge part of the book was sweet, and I definitely look forward to another in the series.  

    I have tried a couple of other authors that were recommended here, but they weren't for me, so I returned them half-read or just-barely-started.  I love public libraries!  

  •  They're awesome, aren't they? (11+ / 0-)

    The Brother Cadfael mysteries were introduced to me by my mom as a teenager. They were and remain some of my favorite mysteries, in large part due to Ellis Peters' brilliant evocation of Cadfael's world and the characters in it.

    While we're on the subject of excellent historical fiction from the Middle Ages, I highly recommend Sharon Kay Penman's trilogy on the century-long struggle between England and northern Wales (the provinces of Gwynned and Powys, to be precise): "Here Be Dragons", "Falls the Shadow" and "The Reckoning".

    All 3 novels are incredibly rich in their prose and are incredibly fast to read, considering how long they are ("Here Be Dragons" is 730 pages).  The story carries us to places across England, Wales and France, weaving well-known and obscure individuals together in strikingly clear fashion. There's plenty of violence, bloodshed and intrigue, but also many tender, deeply compelling passages that can last several pages.

    For those of you who are Richard III fans, Penman's first work "The Sun In Splendor" is a fabulous journey well worth going on.

    "We are the leaders we've been waiting for." - Paul Wellstone

    by MrLiberal on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 08:03:37 PM PST

    •  I second the recommendation... (6+ / 0-)

      ... of Penman's books.  Good author!

      My copies of her books are packed in a box somewhere.  I ran out of bookshelf space and put a large number of books in boxes.  I need a place big enough to acquire more bookshelves so I can have all my books out.

      The Cadfael TV series I loved, and I'm not sure I've read much of Ellis Peters' Cadfael books.  Unless there's an updated version that's been digitized, one can tell that the film was done much earlier than high-def digital films.  I recorded them on PBS and watch from time to time.  Still, I'm a sentimentalist at heart and don't need high-def to enjoy a great story on film.

      I just discovered YouTube has some of the Cadfael stories online.

      Cadfael - One Corpse Too Many [Season 1, Episode 1]
      It says the film runs 1:15:37.  A bunch of other Cadfael stories are online..., broken up into roughly ten minute segments.  If you can follow the stories that way by the little codes the person who put them online has, then you should still be able to view what seems to be a partial list of the TV series.

      The Cadfael TV series had a total of 13 episodes over four seasons.

      Series One
      One Corpse Too Many
      The Sanctuary Sparrow
      The Leper of St. Giles
      Monk's Hood

      Series Two
      The Virgin in the Ice
      The Devil's Novice
      A Morbid Taste for Bones

      Series Three
      The Rose Rent
      St. Peter's Fair
      The Raven in the Foregate

      Series Four
      The Holy Thief
      The Potter's Field
      The Pilgrim of Hate

      Just recently YouTube started allowing full videos of shows to be put online, so I've found an abundance of PBS shows (Secrets of the Dead, Nature, Nova, etc.], BBC, History Channel, and other educational shows I love, love, love online about the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, archaeological digs, anthropology, etc.  I've had a marvelous time watching them, and have a nice bunch of links for the various collections of topics in which I'm avidly interested, besides music videos.

      Occasionally Hulu has a very few wonderful educational videos from TV shows..., but viewing them is marred by those f##king ads they have.  [I have a really intense dislike of ads as an insult to my intelligence.]

      Between genealogy research for ancestors of mine from seven different countries I've documented, my natural bent for history from the Paleolithic to 24 March 1603, English, great literature, most music, I have an eclectic library that includes books, music, and film.

      Yes, at age 66, I'm quite daft about STILL learning things, and plan to do so until I die still asking questions.... :-)

      When straight history, biography, autobiography all becomes too onerous from reading only factual things for too long a time..., I turn to historical fiction for the same periods of history.  As long as the authors are knowledgeable about the historical epochs in which they put their fictitious characters, I tend to enjoy historical fiction a lot.


      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 11:57:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you for the list (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MT Spaces, NonnyO, Ahianne

        I remembered one of the differences between the series and the books was the rather different order. The first book was "A Morbid Taste for Bones" and the last "Brother Cadael's Penance"--which evidently they skipped, and which I haven't read yet--and "The Holy Thief" was next to last.

        Also it looks like I'm going to have to check out Penman's books, since people who like the Cadfael books evidently enjoy her books too!

        If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

        by pimutant on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 09:19:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Curious, yes (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pimutant, Freakinout daily, NonnyO
        Yes, at age 66, I'm quite daft about STILL learning things, and plan to do so until I die still asking questions.... :-)

        I turn to historical fiction for the same periods of history.  As long as the authors are knowledgeable about the historical epochs in which they put their fictitious characters, I tend to enjoy historical fiction a lot.

        I'm equally curious, just thinking about it today, the Internet is heaven on earth for our kind. A question occurs to me in the shower and if I can remember it long enough, I can find the answer in the living room.

        I suddenly started a blog.

        by JG in MD on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 10:59:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  For genealogy research... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JG in MD

          Google Books and Internet Archive web sites with out-of-copyright books free for the download.  [The latter is NOT to be confused with or, one of which takes one to a weird web site.  Make sure it's .org.]

          One book of my ancestors I bought via an online source of book reprints a few years ago and paid $50 for the hardcover reprint.  Just a few months ago this year, I discovered the book (c. 1898) is online for a free download.  So..., I hastily got out my genealogy program and went to all the colonial New England ancestors and started searching for names and more genealogy books..., and kinda went nutz downloading free books whose copyrights expired decades ago.  [Pisses me off, however, that the first offerings via Google are for the paid reprints of same books.  I'm only interested in the downloadable versions of the books whose copyrights that expired a long time ago.  So, I go to the link at Internet Archive and see what they've got, besides US census images.]

          Great additions to historical perspective and genealogy research since some of my ancestors arrived with the Mayflower and for the next 20+ years after that, and a few participated in some events and even have bio Wikipedia pages....

          I even did a search on my maternal grandfather's name for something totally unrelated, and to my jaw-dropping surprise, found his letter to the editor in an old [now-out-of-print] magazine he wrote when he was only about 17 years old via Google Books!  It was almost a century ago.  Talk about a rare find!  I'll bet by the time I came along he'd long since forgotten he ever wrote the letter.

          A few years ago one of the women with whom I graduated high school sent around one of those silly question things with the announcement of a reunion and one of her questions was "What are you most grateful for?"  My answer was "The internet and my computer."  Well, it's the truth.  Without it I wouldn't have made leaps and bounds in the genealogy research I have done for the last eleven years, even finding original info and getting copies of original documents the published authors of genealogies did not have.  Greatest gift to humans is the internet and connections with people from other countries for genealogists.  [Everyone else predictably put their spouse &/or kids &/or grandkids.]


          I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

          by NonnyO on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 06:45:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Sharon Penman is my favorite author (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radarlady, barbwires, MT Spaces

      And for mystery fans, she also wrote a series set in the time of Richard I (while he was away being held for ransom, and Eleanor was regent), starting with The Queen's Man, and featuring a rather delicious youthful Prince John as a recurring villain.

      My family loved the Cadfael TV episodes -- it's a great show to watch w/ the kids -- but sadly I've only read one of the books (I have read and enjoyed her Heaven Tree series and A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury).  I keep meaning to look for the others -- mystery is not really my genre, but anything medieval is!

    •  Loved Penman's books (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MT Spaces

      and fondly remember discussing them with my late father-in-law, a real history buff, and fan of Richard III.  Lovely, transporting writing.  It is easy to get lost in them.  Lovers of the Cadfael series should give them a try!

      Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by papahaha on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 08:43:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I read all of the Cadfael books, probably 25+ (8+ / 0-)

    years ago.  I had a laugh when a not very bright light reviewed one of the later Cadfael books for the college newspaper and referred to the "fictional" town of Shrewsbury.  Hope she didn't start a career as a researcher....!

    "By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell -- and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed." Adolf Hitler

    by pittie70 on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 08:23:38 PM PST

  •  George Felse series (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NonnyO, radarlady, MT Spaces

    She also wrote the George Felse series under Ellis Peters.

    This was a more contemporary series. The only book I read was—I believe—Fallen Into the Pit.

    It was quite fascinating because of the context. It was set just after the end of the war. The victim was a German who had been living in the village—as a POW perhaps—and working on local farms.

    There were respected village residents returned after the war, having been trained to kill the Germans—and experience having done so.

    It was an interesting exploration of this community's transition from wartime to peacetime—and that included the transition of erstwhile warriors back into their normal lives.

  •  Sheriff of Shrewsbury? (9+ / 0-)

    Wouldn't he be Sheriff of Shropshire, which has Shrewsbury as its county seat?  It could have been different then.

    I have seen most of the television dramatizations about Brother Cadfael and could not agree with you more about Derek Jacobi's portrayal of this role.  He is superb.  He also brings to light the considerable amount of science available at that time.

    One might also remind the reader that the King Henry II who finally took the throne was the husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, as portrayed by Katharine Hepburn in "The Lion in Winter".  Eleanor and Henry were the parents of Richard the Lion-Hearted and the much-hated Prince John, who eventually became King John who signed the Magna Carta.

    Eleanor lived into her 80's surviving them all save John.

    Eleanor had previously been married to the King of France but kept producing daughters, so the French King had the marriage annulled, leaving Eleanor free to marry Henry.

    As she (well, Kate) says to her sons, "If I hadn't produced all those daughters [for the French king], we might never have met.  Such, my dears, is the role of sex in history."  It's a lesson worth bearing in mind.

    •  One of my favorite movies of all time! (8+ / 0-)

      It's a wonder it still plays because I watched the VHS so often!  The musical score alone is fabulous, and evocative of the period.

      Land-wise, when Eleanor's father died when she was a teenager, she was the richest person in Europe at the time and held more land than the king of France.  She owned all of the Aquitaine!  Her father had seen to it she was educated, something nearly unheard of for the time period.

      I've read some biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and while the Xmas at Chinon is a fiction, some of the things she talks about actually happened..., like the time she went with Louis on crusade and she and her ladies rode bare-breasted to the crusades.  [There was the rumor, too, that she had an affair with her uncle Raymond.]

      It was Eleanor who sought the annulment of the marriage to Louis, he initially refused the annulment..., but he finally did agree after she produced another daughter (in the marriage agreement, the Aquitaine could not be merged with France until their eldest son became king; ergo, having another daughter left Eleanor still in possession of the Aquitaine, and it remained in her possession with the annulment).

      Eleanor did try to overthrow Henry II and put Richard on the throne - which was why Henry put her under house arrest for seventeen years.  Richard the Lionheart was gay, and he depleted the treasury of England with all his crusades.  John Lackland was not a good king, but I'm not sure he was as skanky as portrayed in the film.  The one thing he is known for is (reluctantly) signing the Magna Carta.  He was pretty bad, as kings go.

      Still, Eleanor was an amazing woman, lived an amazing life, and she would have fit right in with personally autonomous and liberated women in this modern age, I think.  Katharine Hepburn most assuredly deserved the Oscar she won for playing the role of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 12:34:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, when Eleanor plotted against Henry (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        radarlady, Ahianne, MT Spaces, JG in MD

        it would have been to put her eldest son, the young king Henry, on the English throne.  Until young Henry died (and Eleanor was already imprisoned at that point), Richard's inheritance was always supposed to be Aquitaine.

        And I believe that current thinking is that Richard was not in fact gay, but of course we may never know for sure.

        •  Richard was ipso facto a sword jock (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama

          He loved war. More than any woman or man, or Kingdom or crown, he loved war. He never got tired of war. He kept going overseas to find a war to fight. And finally war did him in.

          If it's
          Not your body,
          Then it's
          Not your choice
          And it's
          None of your damn business!

          by TheOtherMaven on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 04:39:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I just finished a book (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dvalkure, Wee Mama

      about the four sisters who were all queens in France and England at that time, and their amazing mother, puller of the strings of Europe.

      he lowest ranking sister was really pissy about it. Caused a few international incidents, if I recall correctly.

      The book was a little tedious in places, but excellent history, especially about the Crusades. And those women—wow!

      Can't remember the name, of course.

      I suddenly started a blog.

      by JG in MD on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 11:03:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  wonderful book ! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama

        It's called ' Four Queens' but I can't remember the name of the author.

         I also lovelove 'Lion in Winter' - saw it first in '68 when it was in theatre and about once a year since it came out on tape/dvd !!! In my family we quote reams of dialogue from it ALL the time !

         It sparked a search for all the info I could find on the Angevin/Aquitaine family and it has been a real pleasure to pursue history via these fascinating characters.

        Love the Cadfael books and tv shows - the shows came first, so I didn't have any conflicts around casting, but the books are always better, richer.

        “Good things don’t come to those who wait. They come to those who agitate!” Julian Bond

        by Dvalkure on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 12:42:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Let's not forget Henry II (4+ / 0-)

      who, among his other many accomplishments, was the only English king to be played TWICE by Peter O'Toole in major motion pictures.

  •  What I love is the profound faith... (4+ / 0-)

    of everyone.
    This is a world where everyone has the same fundamental Christian worldview. Even though the Crusades are in the background, this is a world of pilgrimages and faith.  And it is handled superbly. As is the history.

    Ms Parteger's Cadfael believes that God can forgive anyone, of any deed. She sees into the pain of her tortured murderers, and her conclusions restore the harmony of the community.

    If you want a good George Felse, may I suggest Death and the Joyous Woman. It has a feel very like the Cadfael books - the underlying theme is also love.

    •  I appreciated (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      the way she doesn't inject a modern sense (either nostalgic or condescending) of faith into his world.  I agree that she handles it, as you say, superbly.

      Love these books, and am so glad to be reminded of them!!

      The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: 'What good is it?” - Aldo Leopold

      by Knockbally on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:39:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'll check back in the morning (6+ / 0-)

    I'm afraid it's getting late, the Daily Show is a rerun, so I think I'll pack it in for the night. I see this just got put in Communiy Spotlight so I guess there will be more comments, thank you in advance, and I'll be back!

    If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

    by pimutant on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 10:24:36 PM PST

  •  What a joy to Derik Jacobi again after I Claudius (5+ / 0-)

    I've noticed his series on Netflix after giving up on cable ever having anything worth viewing.

    Glad to see others enjoy Cadfael too.

  •  Wonderful mystery series (6+ / 0-)

    Not long after the Brother Cadfael series became available in the United States, my sister introduced them to me. This was several years before the TV series was produced. I still have my collection of paperbacks--not all of them, but quite a few, and I am inspired to reread them by your diary. The beautiful language as well as the beautiful character of Brother Cadfael, albeit romanticized, combine to make the mysteries a great read. It was also fun to introduce others of my mystery loving friends to Brother Cadfael.

  •  Brother Cadfael (6+ / 0-)

    I first started reading the books a few years ago and I am going through them slowly because I want to savor them.  I know that one day I will finish them and I want to put that day off a while so there are still some more for me to read.

    Thanks so much for this diary!

    “I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point--race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.” ― Molly Ivins

    by RoIn on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 05:30:17 AM PST

    •  You're welcome (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MT Spaces, Knockbally

      I still haven't quite finished all of them, and am spacing them out a bit too. Even though I have the last in the series, I haven't read it yet, I decided to save it until I finished all the others.

      If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

      by pimutant on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 09:29:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Anarchy. . . (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, pimutant, MT Spaces, Dvalkure

    I do mean to read the Caedfel stuff, but I am afraid of what I'll find. I have been fascinated by the era because of The Peterborough Chronicle, Second Continuation. (You can read about it here, provided that the shaved apes haven't butchered the work we did.)

    The second continuation is written by a monk like Caedfel who lived through the whole mess, and his comments are unusual for a number of reasons: 1. They're in English, 2. They sympathize with the peasants, 3. He holds the barons in greatest contempt, including the Bishop of Rochester, 4. He talks about castle building as an onerous, exploitative, and deadly project. Aside from the descriptions of tortures, the picture painted is one of unmitigated horror, but Peterborough was in the battlefield.

    King David of Scotland also mounted a major invasion, and one royal bastard went to organize a real Welsh invasion. In other words, it seems to be a pretty wretched time to be a peasant (provided there were any good times to be a peasant).

    Time is not a fiction; it is a narrative.

    by The Geogre on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:49:46 AM PST

    •  The best I can say (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MT Spaces, The Geogre

      is that Caedfel is "nice." The mysteries are good, and there is a fair amount of politics for King Stephen and Maud, but the outcome of the non-mystery plots is usually a wedding, in keeping with the times. I find them comforting and friendly, probably because I associate Caedfel with Jacoby (and the other way as well to such an extent that I find his Hamlet odd.)

      So by all means read them.

      It is better to be making the news than taking it; to be an actor rather than a critic. - WSC

      by Solarian on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 09:19:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not sure what you fear.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MT Spaces, The Geogre, Ahianne

      Is it that things would be too unpleasant, or that the history is just wrong? The books are pretty accurate I think, but Shrewsbury was relatively well-off during The Anarchy. There was one siege, and some mass executions after King Stephen won, which is the background for "One Corpse Too Many." Also I don't think the class structure and the problems between the Norman lords and the Saxons--and between the Welsh and both groups--are denied, but they are definitely down-played. Again, because the setting is Shrewsbury it is not necessary to deal with the worst things in the period and the world can be made rather enticing. Also, during the period she is describing there was, mostly, peace between that area and Wales, with just a few minor incursions now and again.

      If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

      by pimutant on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 09:38:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The history being wrong (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pimutant, Dvalkure

        My gripes with the era start with "the Church" and go down to lords and ladies.

        1. There was no such thing as "The Church" in England. The monolithic, Richlieu-tinged machine familiar to us from Renaissance Italy and France was no such thing three hundred years earlier, and it never got to be that in England. The church was disconnected, sometimes corrupt and sometimes passionately sincere, and often made fun of.

        2. The lords and ladies of the early Norman era were a swinish crew. The jousting, feasting, capon devouring courtiers of legend were invented as false nostalgia and always cast ever further back in time. The metrical romances of the 13th century point back to Rome, for example, because everyone needs a vanished good old days.

        3. The sheer scarcity of things, including learning. England was remarkable for its wealth of information and its excellent lines of communication compared to France, but when a civil war broke out, it disrupted crops and roads, and that broke everything down.

        4. Stephen inherited an unstable tax base from his father, and so he had to rely upon baronial powers to give, and they, in turn, hid. This is one of the reasons the barons could be such bastards during the conflict.

        At any rate, I saw the mini-series of that Ken Follett horror, and it took me a week to be back on solid food. On the other hand, The Name of the Rose was good (except for monks knowing which Aristotle did not exist).

        Time is not a fiction; it is a narrative.

        by The Geogre on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 11:32:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not sure what to say (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama

          The Ken Follett mini-series warn't very good, I watched it for the costumes and architecture recreations because I was reading Dante at the time. The Name of the Rose book was wonderful, the movie just OK, and once you read the book I think the movie kinda fell a little lower. So that's where I stand on those issues, and I love Cadfael, perhaps that will help you decide where you might rate the books.

          If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

          by pimutant on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 12:56:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, pimutant, MT Spaces, Dvalkure

    I'd been on the fence about starting any new series (particularly those with so many hard-to-find books) but this has given me the nudge to reconsider my reluctance.

    The Brother Cadfael books seem to hit all the things I look for in a mystery series. The ones I enjoy tend to be historical ones (check), set in England or feature British/Irish/Scottish detectives (check) and not be overly complex in terms of the mystery itself, since I'm reading as much for historical detail as anything (check). My family has deep roots in the British Isles (including some of the more high-profile nasty Norman conquerors) so it's fun for me to read about things set in that era, in that place. That there's an actor I love who I can imagine in the lead role---thus "hearing" him in my head---well, so much the better.

    A lot of what I read tends to be literary fiction or nonfiction, with mysteries and genre books sprinkled in there like rainbow sprinkles on a sundae. So....thank you, again, for changing my mind and giving me fun new sprinkles to consider! :-)

    "When did it fall apart? Sometime in the '80s / When the great and the good gave way to the greedy and the mean." - Billy Bragg

    by Vacationland on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:54:32 AM PST

  •  Penman (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, pimutant, MT Spaces, Dvalkure

    Upthread quite a way someone mentions Sharon Kay Penman.

    This book is a not a mystery, but for folks who are interested in the Cadfael period, I'd recommend Penman's "When Christ and His Saints Slept." It covers the long civil way between Maud (Matilda) and Stephen, and the effect on Great Britain which forms the framework of the Cadfael series.

  •  Amazon in the UK has all the books (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Julia Grey, MT Spaces, Dvalkure

    in omnibus form ie 4 or 5 in one go

    so if you want them in the US, try hassling Amazon?

  •  I started reading the Cadfael books (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MT Spaces, Dvalkure

    ..when A Morbid Taste for Bones first came out in paperback. I'm also a filker, and several years back wrote a song for Cadfael. To the tune of "Pange Lingua":

    Brother Cadfael, in your garden
    Do you dream of days gone by?
    Of the Holy Land you warred in,
    Far off under foreign skies?
    "For my dreams I ask no pardon,
    But at peace in cloister lie."

    Brother, in your mercy hide me!
    Hither come I fleeing fear.
    To the gallows men will guide me
    If I find no refuge here.
    "Come, child, and work here beside me;
    To your tale I'll lend my ear."

    Brother, now you've this riddle broken.
    Now I need no longer fly.
    Yet, now that the truth is spoken,
    For this deed a man may die.
    "When we have done all that we can,
    Then on God's mercy rely."

    Cogito, ergo Democrata.

    by Ahianne on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 08:59:44 AM PST

  •  Lovely prose (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pimutant, MT Spaces, Knockbally

    Something I noticed last re-read is what a graceful stylist Peters was, especially in descriptions of the setting.

    •  Yes! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MT Spaces, Knockbally

      That was one of the main things that caused me to wallow in enjoyment! The epiphany of just how much pleasure I was having came to me while I was in the middle of a paragraph describing a character's ride thru the woods. I could "see" it all!

      If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

      by pimutant on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 09:47:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've been listening (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MT Spaces

    to the Cadfael novels on my MP3 player.

    I belong to three libraries, one in Prince Georges Co MD and one in Fairfax Co VA, and the third is the entire system for the State of Maryland. I'm plugged into an audiobook most of the time.

    The Cadfael books are high on my list of checkouts.

    The history, the setting, the humor, the characters, the events, the stories make wonderful listening.

    I suddenly started a blog.

    by JG in MD on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 10:00:31 AM PST

    •  The audiobooks versions narrated by Stephen Thorne (0+ / 0-)

      are outstanding.  They have been my favorite companions on long drives.  My library has a lot of them, but there's some that I've missed; I'm actually considering paying real money to download them in MP3!

      •  Real money? (0+ / 0-)


        It's hard for me to think about paying for audiobooks since I only read them once. I wonder if there are any available for 99¢, like some e-books are. I'll go look. Thanks for the thought.

        I suddenly started a blog.

        by JG in MD on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 04:54:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My local library has several of these. (0+ / 0-)

          Some are cassettes, some are newer CDs.  I've checked them all out at least twice.  (One advantage of a lousy memory is that I can re-read/re-hear books periodically because I've forgotten what happened!)  I'm thinking of buying a couple that the library doesn't have.  They are perfect for long car rides; lovely to listen to so you can listen for hours without getting sick of it, with plots that are easy enough to follow when you can't flip back to check on a clue or remind yourself about who everyone is and what they did when.

  •  Do you like Carl Hiaasen? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JG in MD

    I love his books. I would describe his fiction as having all the humor and absurdity of Thomas Pynchon, but half the calories.

    These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people... -Abraham Lincoln

    by HugoDog on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 12:27:35 PM PST

  •  Nice! (0+ / 0-)

    What a coincidence! I'm trying to chip away at the Cadfael series on Netflix streaming, and I'm also currently reading Monk's Hood. Nothing more to add to the conversation other than the fact that I love historical mysteries.

  •  Try Margaret Frazer as well! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pimutant, Ahianne, Wee Mama

    I love the Cadfael books for all the same reasons given in the original post.  Once they stopped coming and I started having withdrawal symptoms, I tried out Margaret Frazer's Frevisse series.  It's similar in many ways: the re-creation of a world so long past it's as alien as Pern to us now, the medieval setting (three centuries after Cadfael, during the run-up to the Wars of the Roses), and the religious as detective.  But in the Frevisse books the sleuth is a cloistered nun, with rather less freedom of movement than Cadfael has and a much richer spiritual life.  It's a fascinating, fascinating series that has inspired me to read up on the period.  I highly recommend it.

    •  Thanks for the recommendation! (0+ / 0-)

      I've been kind of dreading finally finishing all the Cadfael books and then waiting to forget stuff before rereading, but thanks to you all I now have a fair number of additional entrances to the medieval world. I just checked and I can get all three of the Penman novels from my local libraries (one will have to be ordered though). I keep "a little list" in my purse of things to look for when I'm out and about. I added a couple of recommendations from above and there is no more room....I'm going to have to re-copy my list to fit all the ideas on it (I'll be able to leave off a number of things I've successfully found so I'll have more space but still have just a little list).

      If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

      by pimutant on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 03:37:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great series - I ate them up (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hohenzollern, pimutant, Ahianne

    Figuratively.  ;-)

    The one thing I did "wrong" when I started reading the series was thinking I could begin with book 3, I think it was.  The important events of the first book - about the saint - were referred to, but not explained.

    Read the first book, and all was clear.  I read each one in order after that, and enjoyed them all. Enjoyed the pastoral setting, the goodness of Cadfael, the attention to detail about herbs, living conditions, and even Church history (I truly had not known that priests could marry up into the late middle ages)

    Anyway, enjoyed very much your background pimutant, and all the conversation here.

    The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: 'What good is it?” - Aldo Leopold

    by Knockbally on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:45:45 PM PST

    •  The conversation has been grand! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Thank you all for participating, for the compliments, and especially for all the wonderful suggestions for further reading. I love Readers and Book Lovers!

      If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

      by pimutant on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 09:55:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My favourite Ellis Peters Story (0+ / 0-)

    is in A Rare Benedictine, called "The Price of Light".  It is one one the best Christmas stories I have ever read.  

    God be with you, Occupiers. God IS with you.

    by Hohenzollern on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 07:00:33 PM PST

  •  Thank you for this diary! (0+ / 0-)

    I'm sorry to admit I didn't realize there were Cadfael books; I watched the show on "Mystery" years ago, and liked it a lot.  So now I have a whole new world of books to explore.  Not to mention all the other suggestions in the comments!

    I started reading mysteries way back beginning with Nancy Drew, moved on to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes as a young teenager, and then worked my way through much of the British detective genre.  Then I kind of went off mysteries for a long time.  I'm thinking it's time to dig in again. There's a wonderful bookstore here in Houston, called "Murder By The Book", which is a great resource for, you guessed it, mysteries!

    Because people at DKos know everything, does anybody have a clue as to the title of a children's book, probably the first historical fiction I ever read: it was about a young girl who somehow time-travelled back to the time of Mary, Queen of Scots, and became involved with Mary during the time she was imprisoned.  Don't remember much else about the plot, except that the song Greensleeves was featured.  That book was in my elementary school library and I must have read it ten times.  Would love to find it again!

  •  Great books! I'm also a fan of (0+ / 0-)

    CJ Sansom's Shardlake series. It's set during the era of Henry VIII, so quite a bit later than Ellis Peters' series.

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