Gloria Skurzynski Spider's Voice

ISBN 13: 9780689842085

Spider's Voice

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9780689842085: Spider's Voice
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"I need a servant who doesn't talk."

Thus speaks Abelard, outspoken and passionate church scholar. So Spider, mute and small, is saved from mutilation and poverty to keep watch as Abelard and his beautiful and gifted pupil Eloise commence one of the greatest love stories of all time. With a quick wit and a talent for listening well, Spider gradually learns to read and write from his famous teachers, and in the end, finds his own unique voice, as well as his place in history as witness to a great love. Set against the backdrop of often frighteningly barbaric, always colorful medieval France, Spider's story is one you'll never forget.

"I need a servant who doesn't talk."

Thus speaks Abelard, outspoken and passionate church scholar. So Spider, mute and small, is saved from mutilation and poverty to keep watch as Abelard and his beautiful and gifted pupil Eloise commence one of the greatest love stories of all time. With a quick wit and a talent for listening well, Spider gradually learns to read and write from his famous teachers, and in the end, finds his own unique voice, as well as his place in history as witness to a great love. Set against the backdrop of often frighteningly barbaric, always colorful medieval France, Spider's story is one you'll never forget.

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Review:

This intriguing novel about the classic 12th-century love affair between Eloise and Abelard adds to the growing body of young adult novels with medieval themes. The story is told through the eyes of Aran, the mute servant of the charismatic philosopher-intellectual Abelard. As a teenager, tongue-tied Aran had been sold to a dealer in human oddities, who welded the boy into a metal vest so that he would grow into a "spider" with disproportionately long arms and legs. Abelard needs a servant who won't gossip about his passionate trysts with his beautiful and brilliant student Eloise. He rescues Aran by bringing him into his service, and thus the boy becomes a go-between and an observer of the famous romance. Idyllic love scenes contrast with episodes of bloody violence as the doomed affair plays itself out with Abelard's eventual castration by Eloise's guardian. When Aran gains his voice in a pseudo-miracle and grows in self-assurance, his hero worship of the selfish and insensitive Abelard begins to fade, but Eloise remains to him the symbol of an overwhelming passion he can never experience. A closing author's note zooms teens into the 21st century, noting the address of a Web site where they can read the actual love letters of this famous couple. (Ages 12 to 15) --Patty Campbell

From School Library Journal:

Grade 8 Up-This is the story of the famous medieval lovers Abelard and Heloise (here called Eloise), told from the point of view of a fictional servant. Aran, who has been tongue-tied since birth, is sold by his brutish brother to a freak dealer in Paris. Rescued by the charismatic Abelard, the silent boy seems to be the perfect servant for the revered scholar who is having an affair with his beautiful student, the niece of his landlord. Aran, called Spider by the lovers, becomes devoted to the pair. When the couple is discovered together, Eloise's uncle forces them to marry. However, to retain his status in the academic world, Abelard must keep his marriage a secret. The two separate, infuriating the young woman's uncle who desires the honors the celebrity union will bring him. In a fit of insane rage, he creeps to Abelard's lodging and castrates him in a bloody scene. In his uncontrollable agony, Abelard turns on Spider, who was supposed to guard the door, and with a knife, cuts his tongue free, enabling him to speak. The story is complicated and compelling, full of drama, love, and violence. Occasionally, credibility is strained by the twists of the plot. Nonetheless, Skurzynski is masterful in her characterizations, showing the subtleties of each person's nature and the ways in which they are changed by the circumstances of their lives. She delineates the complex relationship between the lovers in scenes that are sensual and descriptive. In his attempts to improve the lives of peasants, Spider shows a sensibility perhaps too modern. However, his intelligent observations of Eloise and Abelard and of life in 12th-century France more than make up for this shortcoming.
Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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