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Author Topic: Pestilence: A Medlieval Tale of Plague by Jeani Rector  (Read 2855 times)

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« on: July 28, 2012, 05:56:26 PM »

Pestilence: A Medieval Tale of Plague by Jeani Rector
ISBN: 978-0-615-63963-5
Published by Horror Zine Books, 2012

I was once thrown out of a balloon. It was 1969 and I had volunteered to be Wat Tyler – a martyred socialist revolutionary in 1381. Sadly, my audience, while praising my eloquence and fervour for that medieval popular uprising chose to keep a Dolly Parton look-alike alive in the sinking balloon debate instead – I’ve no idea why. That even when I quoted the immortal ditty from Tyler’s reverend friend, John Ball, “When Adam delved, and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?”
Jeani Rector’s book is a horror, but a medieval political and medical tale not just of the plague, but of a wind of change in the way society was run. This chilling tale is explored through the fictional person of Elaisse, the daughter of nobility. Her life is upended after she escapes from a forced marriage and becomes a dressmaker’s apprentice in London. Far from streetwise, Elaisse is quite naïve, initially, but as she encounters victims of the bubonic plague in an already rough city, she soon acquires survival characteristics making the gutsy aspects of her nature come to the surface. Add a touch of the old premarital urges, and a heavy dose of black pustules along with realistic goriness of the disease and its effects, we have a touching yet gruesome story.

The setting isn’t the England I know, but then I’ve only lived there for the past sixty years, not over 600 years ago. On the other hand much of the hierarchical and political attitudes remain recognisable, sad to say. This novel isn’t one of unremitting dystopia, more one of coping with dastardly deeds, and disaster, love, and hope. This is as close as you’re going to get to understanding how people struggled with the plague in medieval England.

Wat Tyler and John Ball have their moment a few decades later in reality than in this book, as Jeani Rector admits to in an appendix, but I forgive that ‘creative liberty’ because the mood for change existed in the earlier decades of the 14th Century too, and it brings to readers their names, making me feel proud that I hadn’t plummeted from that balloon in vain.   

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