Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Inquisitor's Tale

I love it when there are coincidences in my life.  Every year I outline a plan for what I want to read and what I want to focus on.  I have lots of categories to choose from (wouldn't want to get bored...) and last year English literature was one of my categories (though really, it is a category every year!).  I generally flit about, from one century to the next,  popping from one author to another.  Often the things that I read refer to other books (in reading terminology that is referred to as the book bullet), so I will cheerfully head in that direction (if I haven't already read the book mentioned). Since I discovered the pleasure of audio books I have been having fun listening to books I read more than twenty years ago (because after two or more decades and thousands of book later I can't quite remember the plots any more).
One of my favourites was a reading of Gulliver's Travels  by David Case.  His voice was perfect for reading such a cheeky story and I had many fits of the giggles over his dry and acerbic delivery.  What was also listened to last summer was Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales by a cast of narrators.  I loved it and was laughing hard and often (though I really hated The Parson's Tale which was basically a two hour sermon at the end!).
Which brings me back to what I said at the beginning about coincidences.
The Inquisitor's Tale is exactly the style of story telling that was used in The Canterbury Tales. I was thrilled when I picked it up at the library, all shiny, new and embossed with gold, and excited to realize what it was about!
  The story is situated in 1200's France with remarkable characters, an exciting beginning which keeps you hooked until the finish (and no creepy sermon at the end!).  There is only a hint of bawdiness (it is a book meant for kids after all).  The violence was a bit much at first (but really, so many tales from that time are stuffed with violence I don't think Gidwitz could or should have left it out).  The story was also stuffed with religion (which wasn't as annoying or preachy as it could have been) and had smatterings of real people and true events.  It also had plenty of mysticism and flatulence (all these things that are, believe it or not, in The Canterbury Tales!)
There is something good to say about that kind of storytelling, and even though Chaucer's tales in some part were unfinished, I think he left us something very valuable beyond the prose and the poetry: the narrative frame.  I am profoundly grateful that Adam Gidwitz decided to write this book.
Also, the illustrations throughout the novel are perfect and in keeping with the style of the era.  They really made the story a bigger and better thing.
I think Neil Gaiman would approve.

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