Review published on May 4, 2017.
This is a novel about time travel that I really enjoyed (as opposed to many I haven’t in recent years).
It is December 1348 and brothers William and John are making their way home to Moreton, near Exeter, from work in Salisbury. The roads, countryside and villages are covered with the bodies of victims of the plague (The Black Death), which is sweeping the land. William (the older brother) is carefree and lusty as a young single man, whereas John is a religiously devout family man longing to return safely to his wife Catherine and three sons.
Danger and disease threaten their progress. First, William comes upon his lover Elizabeth and then, when John decides to rescue a baby found alive beside his dead parents, John’s kindness leads to tragedy and both brothers fear for their own mortality.
John seeks refuge amongst the stone-carved heights of the cathedral in Exeter where he is a mason/sculptor.
When an unearthly voice offers him hope of salvation from death, although his life will be marked by 99 years passing in the remaining week of his life, John agrees to the pact.
What follows is a fascinating trip through seven centuries of history, primarily based in Exeter and its environs, but encompassing local, national and world events. This is alongside the ‘ordinary’ people John will meets each day as challenges to his faith and his belief in people.
The author has done well to stride across generations with only a few minor blips that seemed out of place. It’s a great personal read and one I think book groups would love!
Philipa Coughlan 4/4
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Simon & Schuster UK 9781471146558 hbk Jun 2017
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