A Booke of Days: A Novel of the Crusades

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9780786703487: A Booke of Days: A Novel of the Crusades

A young French nobleman, Roger, Duke of Lunel, leaves his home to join the forces to recapture Jerusalem, yet the holy crusade turns horribly wrong as he witnesses savagery, betrayal, and deceit all around him, and he begins to believe that he will neverreturn home

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A historical saga of Pope Urban II's perverse ``armed pilgrimage''--that is, the First Crusade--brilliantly folds post- Vietnam cynicism and late-20th-century spiritual doubt into a bloody, muddy, horrifyingly surreal march to Jerusalem in 1096. First-novelist Rivele, a screenwriter and playwright, begins this medieval pastiche as a roots tale, in which he tells of his personal discovery of a diary kept by his fictional ancestor, Roger l'Escrivel (the writer), Duke of the Proven‡al region of Lunel. Presented as Rivele's modern translation (with delightfully ironic annotations) of Roger's diary, the story begins with bumbling Roger's seduction by a peasant's wife. After the cuckolded peasant apparently drowns himself, Roger, a fretful Candide, seeks to atone for his guilt by joining the 30,000 nobles, knights, and peasants who make up the First Crusade. As if he were writing a Vietnam combat novel, the author revels in ghastly scenes of violence and depravity laced with unexpected wit. When the brain-damaged peasant Peter Bartholomew burns himself to death clutching a holy relic that was supposed to protect him from harm, and when the bloodthirsty Normans, who decorate their armor with the severed body parts of their victims, let political intrigue almost destroy the ragtag remnant of a once-mighty army, Roger confronts God with a very 20th-century version of despair. His suffering is made only worse when he falls in love with a wise and beautiful Turkish poetess, Yasmin. Yasmin's mystical mutterings about faith and emptiness increase Roger's spiritual agony, which reaches the breaking point when he abandons Yasmin, who is now pregnant with his child, to join his comrades for the final assault on Jerusalem. No feel-good sophistry or sentimentality relieves Roger's Pyrrhic revelation within Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A stunningly mature novel of faith, violence, love, and loss that, while rooted in late-20th-century nihilism and uncertainty, remains scrupulously faithful to its period. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

This intriguing historical novel is a standout in the genre. Rivele (coauthor of the screenplay for Oliver Stone's Nixon) structures his fiction debut as a journal kept by Roger, Duke of Lunel, an 11th-century French nobleman who joins thousands of knights, soldiers and pilgrims on the First Crusade against Turkish forces occupying the Holy Land. Roger enlists in the pilgrimage to atone for guilt he feels over his illicit courtship of the "dark and handsome" Jehanne, whom he marries after the death of her first husband, Eustace of Valdevert. But he discovers that the price of remission of a sin may be far greater than the sin itself. As a chronicle of war, the journal works effectively, distilling the immense scope of the Crusade through the filter of Roger's perspective as knight and pilgrim. His recounting of battle scenes may not rise to the grandeur of traditional historical epics, but his record is all the more personal and moving since it contains the weary, often disillusioned thoughts of an officer at the end of a long day. The diary also describes the fierce rivalry, even treachery, among military and church leaders, as well as the obstacles of disease, starvation, desertion and alien landscape. Suffering is not the whole story, however, for Roger is a man of contemplation and reflection who continually questions the true motives of the pilgrimage. His European-bred prejudice against the Turks dissolves when he observes them, especially in light of the ever increasing barbarism of his fellow Christians. Then his views of religion, duty and love are altered forever by his relationship with Yasmin, an educated Turkish woman. Roger's honest, tenacious quest for redemption in the midst of the Crusade's inhumanity and ignorance makes this an absorbing and intelligent look at a remote period of history.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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