Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter

BlurbOn arriving at a rural monastery, the monk Ambrosius meets a young girl, Benedicta. She is shunned by the local community for being the daughter of the local hangman, but Ambrosius is drawn into a dangerous sympathy with her, and in defiance of the community and his superiors, he starts spending time alone with her. But when her virtue is corrupted by an impetuous young man, the stage is set for a battle between heart, mind, body, spirit, the sins of the past and redemption. 

Allegedly a rewriting from a lost German original, Ambrose Bierce's 1892 novel reads as a seamless, almost folktale-like masterpiece.

Thoughts: I actually didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. There a great delicacy to the way it's written and to the monk's observation, and some of the descriptions are truly beautiful.  It is quite a quiet book and I did like that about it in some ways. But I think I was just expecting it to be slightly more gritty - for lack of a better word. I guess I found it too beautiful and I wanted something more to get my teeth into. I also found the monk incredibly frustrating; his silent pining with no action. In a way, the portrayal of this inner turmoil is a strength of the book, but I don't think I understood the protagonist enough to fully appreciate it. To leave you with an annoying teaser though - the ending is brilliant.

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't heard of this before... sorry it was kind of a draw for you, but that cover is fantastic. -Sarah