Saturday, 5 March 2011


Wolf Girl - Theresa Tomlinson,
This story is set in Whitby Abbey in the year before the Synod of Whitby. Cwen, the weaver, is accused of stealing a valuable necklace. That in itself would merit a severe penalty but there is worse. It could be a royal necklace and in that case stealing it would be treason and the punishment would be slow death. But Cwen's daughter
Wulfrun is determined to prove her mother innocent. And she finds some surprising allies in the Princess Elfled, the novice monk Adfrith and the cowherd/poet Cadmon. Their quest takes them to a small fishing village and then to a hermit in a forest. But there are those who do not want the truth uncovered and Wulfrun and her friends
eventually find themselves on a wild desperate flight to Bamburgh. Whitby Abbey and its community are brought vividly to life both by the author's descriptions and also by the useful little plan at the beginning of the book. Right away this makes it quite clear that thisis a Celtic Abbey and not one of the better known medieval Roman
ones. For a start Hild's community contains both monks and nuns. The everyday work of the little community can be easily imagined by the reader. There is Adfrith in the scriptorium, Fridgyth with her herb garden, Cadmon with his calves – and we share his pain when the blood month arrives and they are killed. The book just abounds with strong, independent female characters. To name but a few: there is the Princess Elfled, wilful and imperious but also courageous and determined, Wulfrun, courageous and
responsible beyond her fourteen years, and the abbess Hild herself
who rules her little community wisely and who wields power among the
greatest kings and princes in the land.This story brings to life a period of English history which, sadly, is too often neglected –– Anglo-Saxon times. The book has been
thoroughly researched and there is a note on the sources used –– including of course Bede's History of the English Church and People.
And yet although so many scholarly works have been used the writing
is eminently readable. In her note at the end the author has said that she decided to try
some mystery/adventure stories using Hild's abbey at Whitby for the setting.

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