Skip to main content

Review: The Owl Killers, by Karen Maitland


Set in the English village of Ulewic (fictional, but placed somewhere near Norwich) in 1321-22, The Owl Killers is the story of a village fighting against forces both known and unknown. At the story’s center is the town’s beguinage, a community of women originally from Bruges who came to England to lead lives independent of marriage or the convent. When the town suffers from flood and plague, and the women are unaffected, the people in the town start to suspect them of harboring a holy relic. Meanwhile, the village is controlled by a group of men called the Owl Masters and haunted by the specter of the Owlman, who delivers nothing but death and destructionto the places and people he visits.

The story is narrated by a number of characters, including the beguinage’s leader, Servant Martha; the angry and bitter beguine named Beatrice; the town’s self-righteous priest, Father Ulfrid; Osmanna, daughter of the lord of the manor who is sheltered by the beguines; and one of the village children. The novel contains a curious and intriguing combination of pagan belief and Christianity, witchcraft and superstition.

I don’t normally read books with supernatural themes, but The Owl Killers grabbed me from page one and refused to let me go. One of my favorite things about this book is the characters; each narrator has their own strong, unique voice (my favorite was the sensible, practical Servant Martha). Maitland shows the middle ages as they really were, and she does so perfectly. Maitland delivers the symbolism a little heavy-handedly (of the “a candle blows out and someone dies” variety), but I nevertheless enjoyed this novel. Read it, and you’ll never feel the same way about owls or men in masks again.

Comments

Sounds intriquing.
Wishing you a lovely Easter!
Reporter Paige said…
I don't normally read supernatural either, but lately have been more interested. I might have to check this one out!

Paige
http://paigeofthebook.blogspot.com/
Oh yeah!!! I was SO wanting this one to be good. I really loved Maitland's other novel, Company of Liars. Really awesome review Katherine!

Popular posts from this blog

2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…

2016 Reading

January:
1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
3. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
4. Liar: A Memoir, by Rob Roberge

February:
1. The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
2. Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis
3. She Left Me the Gun, by Emma Brockes
4. Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
5. The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
6. To Show and to Tell, by Philip Lopate

March:
1. Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick
2. Too Brief a Treat, by Truman Capote
3. On the Move: a Life, by Oliver Sacks
4. The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
5. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
6. Giving Up the Ghost, by Hilary Mantel
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
8. The Great American Bus Ride, by Irma Kurtz
9. An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Radfield Jamison
10. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
11. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder
12. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr
13. An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
14. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972Originally published: 1944My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press)How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…