Song for Eloise by Leigh Sauerwein, and published by Bloomsbury, went into my Book of Books back in January after reading this compelling review in The Guardian.
Then nothing happened.
I didn't spot the book on bookshop shelves, didn't buy it immediately and it was only one of those Make the Postage up to Free moments that saw it arriving a few weeks ago.
The cover by the way is exquisite and reminds me fondly of Jan Pienkowksi's silhouette books for children.
I picked the book up and devoured it in one sitting a few weeks ago because suddenly it seemed to fit comfortably with my journey back to reading about the life and times of Abelard and Heloise via Words of Love by Pamela Norris.
Song for Eloise set in twelfth century France and fifteen year old Eloise is married off to a man twice her age.
Poor Robert, probably a big softie underneath all that chain mail knitwear and hirsute facial stuff but he doesn't really have a clue about the niceties of women and Eloise is predictably miserable and homesick as she is carted off to his draughty hilltop castle.
Enter the Thomas the Trobar (troubadour) and voila, love blossoms.
Amazingly the accounts of several lives all contained within this tiny book.It's a lovely melancholy little story that weaves in sufficient detail about the daily round of life in the middle ages to give you a real sense of time and place and the passing of the seasons.Principally the work on the land and its dependence on daylight hours.
Enjoyably Leigh Sauerwein never quite let me into the hearts and minds of her characters, I felt a step removed from them all, much as if I was watching this story unfold from a distance, in fact from a millenium away, which somehow made it all the more poignant.
A perfect read for a late autumn Sunday afternoon and I think this rounds off the Abelard and Heloise section of Pamela's book nicely.
Off on a sidetrack I've read some of the letters and a bit of biography about the doomed couple.
Alright I turned straight to "that" page and I'm sorry but the man's fibbing, being very economical with the truth, probably to salvage his pride.
For those not quite as au fait with Abelard and Heloise as I now am, let me enlighten you. A revenge attack on Abelard at dead of night left him brutally parted from his manhood without the benefit of anaesthetic and he assures us he didn't feel a thing.
Not only for its delineation of the gelding of naughty bishops, Words of Love is also proving to be a really companionable guidebook through some off-the-beaten track aspects of great literature and I keep it on stand-by and dip into it frequently. Pamela's next foray is into The Tale of Genji which takes up more than its fair share of shelf space here so it will be good to
let Pamela Norris do the work find a way into that might tome.
Well there's nothing more to be said, we must leave the depleted and congenitally analgic Abelard and Pamela and I must don our kimonos and scurry off to the Japanese court.