St Bartholomew’s Man
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|St Bartholomew’s Man
By Mary Delorme
Publisher: self-published (by her son Jon)
Pub. Date: 2011 (written in 1998)
This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
This review is another illustration that self-published books are getting better and better.
As you know, I’m more and more picky about what I read –if you wonder why, know that my Goodreads TBR is today at 716 titles, so I’m not going to waste my time with books which are not worth my time and effort.
But when I received an email from Jon, inviting me to read his mother’s novel, I was intrigued enough by the topic to say yes!
Even if you don’t loive in England, you may have heard about St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.
Also known simply as Barts, or more formally as The Royal Hospital of St Bartholomew, it is the oldest hospital in Europe, having been founded in 1123, and the oldest in the United Kingdom that still occupies its original site.
St Bartholomew’s Man is the account of Rahere‘s life (died in 1144), the founder of this hospital, especially his time as a court jester, and then what inspired him to build this hospital/church/monastery during a pilgrimage to Italy, and then all the beginnings of the hospital.
There’s no secret that the Middle Ages is my favorite period in history.
The historical background is richly described in the book:
- choirs of young boys in Benedictine monasteries
- life in a Benedictine monastery, with large care of the pilgrims, the poor, and the sick; and the prayer offices.
- life at court, with jesters and musicians
- the awful times under William II, or William Rufus, and what he did to young boys…
- Queen Matilda and the poor
- the famous wreck when many members of the English court died at sea
- pilgrimages and relics
- the building of monasteries and churches
- the place of women, and how some were treated
- feudalism, relationships between lords and serfs
- the not always edifying behavior of priests and bishops
- and of course the major conflict between Stephen and the other Matilda
I really enjoyed the portrait of 12th century England through this book.
The ambiance was also so well rendered, with both the violence of the times (first at William II’s court, then during the Stephen-Matilda’s war) and the gentle care of Rahere and his monks for the poor and the sick, and all those wounded during these terrible events.
There’s also a gentle pious milieu, with Rahere’s religious life, his devotion and God-oriented radiant character. He looked so very deep and genuine through this novel, fighting also again depression, and anger when facing injustice and cruelty.
Every time you recognize that great love, no matter where, know that you are in His presence.
location 903 on my kindle
I also enjoyed very much Rahere’s companionship with 2 instrumental women at the beginning of the hospital: Puella and Femina, and how Rahere saved them from a miserable life.
I question just a couple of minus points, that don’t affect the high quality of the book:
- the order of prayer offices sounded a bit odd to me, especially for Benedictines, such as having “Vespers followed closely by Lauds”, then by Compline.
- opposition between Cluniacs and Benedictines. The monastery of Cluny WAS a Benedictine monastery
As an aside, I discovered that Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem on Rahere.
VERDICT: This beautiful historical novel is an excellent portrait of 12th century England. In the radiant company of Rahere, you will get to know the beginnings of the very famous St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Highly recommended if you are looking for hidden gems.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Subtle, moving, beautifully told, and based on all the real facts available, ‘St Bartholomew’s Man’ will take you in accurate period detail, to a time in the 12th century when life was brief and harsh. To the time a humble man, a mere court jester to King Henry 1st, yet a man with great vision was formed, who was to lay the groundwork to one of the worlds greatest institutions, hundreds of years ahead of it’s time. [from the publisher]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Delorme has been a writer for many years.
She lived in Trowbridge in Wiltshire for more than twenty years and in Somerset since 1986.
At first her published work consisted mainly of music, having been a concert pianist. Since then she has had published over a hundred articles, largely on education, history, topography and biography, for journals such as History Today, The Teacher and The Historian.
For five years she was a regular reviewer for Primary Education Review.
Her paper published books include a novel about modern musicians, Wandering Minstrels, an historical novel, Alexis, on the life of the great chef Soyer, and two topographical volumes, Curious Sussex – published by Robert Hale, London and Curious Wiltshire, published by Ex Libris – now in it’s 6th reprint.
Please visit Goodreads to see Mary’s other published work and Authonomy for her latest reviews
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