Original publication date: 1998 (in Swedish)
My edition: 2009 (Harper)
Why I decided to read: Elizabeth Chadwick recommended on her website.
How I acquired my copy: bought from bookdepository UK
Arn of Gotha is born in 1150, the younger son of a wealthy landowner. After a miracle occurs, Arn is sent to a monastery, where he is trained in both spiritual and physical matters—in the latter, by a former Knight Templar. The novel covers Arn’s early years, up until the time he is sent off to fight as a Knight Templar himself. The outcome of the novel is inevitable, but it’s the way that Arn gets there that is particularly interesting.
It’s not an easy read, by any stretch; I don’t know if it’s Jan Guillou’s writing style or the way the translator translated the book, but there were certain passages that were a bit slow going for me. There’s also a lot in here about faith and sin, although I didn’t find the religious bits off putting. Rather, it led an air of veracity to the whole novel. There’s also a fair amount of Swedish history thrown in, though Guillou doesn’t hit his reader over the head with it. The political maneuverings of medieval Sweden can be a bit confusing, though.
More than anything, though, this is a coming of age novel, set in a place that I really didn’t know much about 9I’m familiar with 12th-century history in other parts of Europe, but Sweden was a whole new ball game for me). It was a little hard for me to believe that Arn could be such an innocent about certain things, but I think the author handled Arn’s development as the central character especially well. The Road to Jerusalem is the first book in a trilogy that continues with The Knight Templar and Birth of the Kingdom.