Saturday, 26 March 2011

Brother Cadfael

I am quite enjoying reacquainting myself with the worldy-wise and enigmatic Brother Cadfael, thanks to Cornflower's current Book Group pick.  I was first introduced to this series whilst in school (but I only read one book, The Devil's Novice) and years later I watched most of the episodes of the TV adaptation with Derek Jacobi in the lead role. 

Edith Pargeter (a.k.a. Ellis Peters) and Derek Jacobi (Source)
I'm half way through the first novel in this series and I was pleasantly surprised at the subtle humour to be found in this book.  Brother Cadfael is a Benedictine monk in 12th century Shropshire who is of Welsh descent and who lived a very full and worldly life before taking his orders.  There are lovely descriptions of his tending his herb garden and the medicinal uses he has for each plant that he cultivates.  He seems to be a shrewd observer of human behaviour which comes in handy when he finds himsef in Wales bent over the body of a prominent landowner.  Suspicion is cast upon his prior as the murdered man opposed the removal of a Welsh saint's bones to Brother Cadfael's church in England.  A finger of suspicion is also pointed at an Englishman who worked for the murdered man and who had been seeking to marry the murdered man's daughter.

Shrewsbury Abbey

It's a smooth, pleasurable read with rich descriptions of North Wales and Shrewsbury.  Fortunately, I have forgotten most of the plots used for the TV series so I can enjoy this novel on its own merits.  I must say that the Cadfael in my mind looks and sounds nothing like Derek Jacobi and Shrewsbury seems brighter and greener than that portrayed in the series.  Oddly, it seems that the TV series was filmed on location in Hungary!  I think that this will be a mystery series that I will seek out in future especially since I picked up a second-hand book a few years ago of Ellis Peters' Shrewsbury.  I only had a glimpse of Shrewsbury once and that was mostly of the castle and the lush countryside.  I am now aware that there is a Brother Cadfael walk and museum so I would love to visit again to do this historic town justice and to follow in the footsteps of Cadfael.

Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England


Gypsy Rose Creations said...

wow. what an amazing pic of Shrewsbury. I can see my wandering through the trees near the water.

Annie said...

I loved the early books in this series, but the later ones got rather predictable. You could pick who'd 'done it' round about page 50, even if 'it' hadn't been 'done' yet. Do be careful if you go round the Cadfael sites in Shrewsbury. You tend to get accosted by 'monks' who want you to join in with everything. It can be disconcerting if you just want a quite look round.

Anonymous said...

I have never read any. And the tv programme for some reason I disliked immensely. Perhaps it was my age?

You have really sold the book to me from this review, and I look forward to hearing more.

Perhaps I will seek this book out in the library.