by Ellis Peters
Published 1986, 1988, 1988
Truth be told, while I love every single page of these books, I feel like a broken record reviewing them, especially since I don’t like to tell too much about the plot–they are mysteries, after all! So I thought that I would combine these three into a single post.
One of the things that I greatly enjoy about Peters’s writing is her ability to teach a lesson quietly and unobtrusively. Through the mouths of Brother Cadfael and the Father Abbot especially, gentle truths are put forth, truths worth wrestling with and examining. In these books, we learn the beauty of generosity, that there is indeed a time to mourn, and that all is not always as it appears.
Perhaps one of my favorite lessons is found in The Confessino of Brother Haluin, which begins when a young monk falls from a roof (in dire need of repair due to a heavy snowfall) and nearly dies. So nearly, in fact, that he calls the Father Abbot so that he can make his final confession. However, the brother does not die, and, though very crippled, receives leave to make a pilgrimage as penance for a long-past but very serious sin. Brother Cadfael, the only other man alive to know this story, is chosen as the brother’s companion.
But what I loved about this book was the acknowledgement that life does not always go the way we wish. Love is not always fulfilled in the way we want it to be, but sometimes the life that we would have thought of originally as second-best, turns out to be the first-best after all. It is one of those lessons that we never seem to teach (or learn), but great contentment can be found when one realizes the import of this teaching.
These books are by no means perfect, and the mysteries are not always as mysterious as one might desire, but the overall writing quality, historical research, and simple beauty of these stories make them well worth the read.