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The Fire and the Rose – Robyn Cadwallader

The Fire and The Rose – Robyn Cadwallader

As I have read and enjoyed The Book of Colours, I was keen to read this one. In fact, I got a paper and an audio version from the library. In the end I listened to it.

Here’s the blurb …

England, 1276: Forced to leave her home village, Eleanor moves to Lincoln to work as a housemaid. She’s prickly, independent and stubborn, her prospects blighted by a port-wine birthmark across her face. Unusually for a woman, she has fine skills with ink and quill, and harbours a secret ambition to work as a scribe, a profession closed to women.

Eleanor discovers that Lincoln is a dangerous place, divided by religious prejudice, the Jews frequently the focus of violence and forced to wear a yellow badge. Eleanor falls in love with Asher, a Jewish spicer, who shares her love of books and words, but their relationship is forbidden by law. When Eleanor is pulled into the dark depths of the church’s machinations against Jews and the king issues an edict expelling all Jews from England, Eleanor and Asher are faced with an impossible choice.

Vivid, rich, deep and sensual, The Fire and the Rose is a tender and moving novel about how language, words and books have the power to change and shape lives. Most powerfully, it is also a novel about what it is to be made ‘other’, to be exiled from home and family. But it is also a call to recognise how much we need the other, the one we do not understand, making it a strikingly resonant and powerfully hopeful novel for our times.

I enjoyed it. It reminded me of The Weight of Ink – female scribe plus the Jewish context. It was beautifully written with lots of historical detail; social history, Christian and Jewish history, information about the wool trade and spices, usury and living conditions. Antisemitism is endemic (quite appropriate to out times). The one thing I struggled with was the freedoms Eleanor had; I know she was poor, but to be able to support herself as a scribe and keep her baby seemed unrealistic in those brutal times.

A review


Filed under 3, Audio, Fiction, Historical Fiction