I received a free book for my honest opinion.
About the Book:
Publication Date: December 2, 2014
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction
Set in 7th century England, The Oblate’s Confession tells the story of Winwaed, a boy who – in a practice common at the time – is donated by his father to a local monastery. In a countryside wracked by plague and war, the child comes to serve as a regular messenger between the monastery and a hermit living on a nearby mountain. Missing his father, he finds a surrogate in the hermit, an old man who teaches him woodcraft, the practice of contemplative prayer, and, ultimately, the true meaning of fatherhood. When the boy’s natural father visits the monastery and asks him to pray for the death of his enemy – an enemy who turns out to be the child’s monastic superior – the boy’s life is thrown into turmoil. It is the struggle Winwaed undergoes to answer the questions – Who is my father? Whom am I to obey? – that animates, and finally necessitates, The Oblate’s Confession.
While entirely a work of fiction, the novel’s background is historically accurate: all the kings and queens named really lived, all the political divisions and rivalries actually existed, and each of the plagues that visit the author’s imagined monastery did in fact ravage that long-ago world. In the midst of a tale that touches the human in all of us, readers will find themselves treated to a history of the “Dark Ages” unlike anything available today outside of textbooks and original source material.
About the Author:
William Peak spent ten years researching and writing The Oblate’s Confession, his debut novel. Based upon the work of one of the great (if less well known) figures of Western European history, the Venerable Bede, Peak’s book is meant to reawaken an interest in that lost and mysterious period of time sometimes called “The Dark Ages.”
Peak received his baccalaureate degree from Washington & Lee University and his master’s from the creative writing program at Hollins University. He works for the Talbot County Free Library on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Thanks to the column he writes for The Star Democrat about life at the library (archived at http://www.tcfl.org/peak/), Peak is regularly greeted on the streets of Easton: “Hey, library guy!” In his free time he likes to fish and bird and write long love letters to his wife Melissa.
For more information please visit William Peak’s website.
This was a very different type of book and it’s one of those books you are either going to love or hate. I happened to love it. This period in history fascinates me – there is not much known so I have a world of respect for an author who can build a rich story out of little snippets. It was a time when Christianity is just starting to take hold in England and its tenets are sometimes at odds with the “old ways.”
Young Winwaed has been donated to the Monastery by his father in a burst of enthusiasm in a run up to a battle. It was apparently the thing to do. But Winwaed has no idea of why he came to be an oblate only that it is his life. He only learns it when his father comes to visit him; the only time he will have a memory of the man. His father tells him his history, the history of the land and a somewhat different history of the monastery than what Winwaed has been taught. It leaves him in a bit of a dither as his whole world has been turned upside down. No one seems to care that he is just a child.
The repercussions of this visit are long lasting and in some ways unrealized until much later in Winwaed’s life. He goes back to his normal but with many questions that he cannot ask, nor would he receive the answers he needs. His only solace is the Hermit he serves – a monk who lives on the mountain. He teaches Winwaed about life in ways that will serve him
I will admit it took me a little to get used to the rhythm of the book. It is written in a somewhat literary style and we all know I am not the most introspective reader. But once I found my balance I was hooked. I found myself quite involved in the monk’s lives as they tried to survive in times of plague, poor harvest and other difficulties. I struggled with Winwaed as he tried to understand his world and I wanted to protect him when I felt that he was being treated unfairly. I can’t say I would want to live in this Dark Ages world but I’m certainly happy I visited it through the talented pen of Mr. Peak.
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