Skip to main content

Review: The Peacock and the Pearl, by Jennifer Lang

Pages: 438

Original date of publication: 1992

My edition: 1992 (St. Martin’s Press)

Why I decided to read: browsing in the library

How I acquired my copy: unacquired, from the library, April 2010

Set between the years of 1371 and 1383, The Peacock and the Pearl is set amongst the guild system of medieval London and against the wider historical backdrop of the period—culminating, in fact, with the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Joanne Burgeys, the plain-featured daughter of an ambitious mercer, encounters Sir Tristam de Maudesbury, a retainer knight of John of Gaunt, one day during an apprentice riot. In true romantic tradition, Tristam literally is her knight in shining armor, saving her life. Later, Joanna repays the favor, and by a strange twist of fate, the two marry—although the relationship is pretty much one-sided.

The historical detail of the book is excellent, and the author, who wrote a number of books on the medieval guild system. Everything, especially what people wear, is meticulously described—sometimes ad nauseum.

Apart from the historical veracity of the book however, the rest of the novel pretty much falls apart, because the author isn’t very good at developing believable, interesting characters. Our heroine, Joanna, behaves in some completely idiotic ways, so much so that it made me less inclined to be sympathetic towards her when she got in trouble. Tristam is so obviously a Bad Guy, and he and Joanna are so obviously ill-suited for one another, that I just didn’t care in the end what happened to either of them. Joanna’s sister comes across as a shallow idiot, and Black Nick’s character does such a large 180 about halfway through the book that it just wasn’t believable.

It’s clear that the plot was somewhat influenced by medieval romances, but I just wasn’t absorbed in this one. The author’s writing style is very good, and as I’ve mentioned, the historical bits are wonderful, but I just wasn’t all that involved in the story or the lives of the characters, who sometimes seemed like modern people dressed in period clothes.


Clare said…
I hate it when characters are just dumb for no reason- I mean, I understand if a character is slow on the uptake, but doing stupid things? Yeah, no, not working for me. I'm sorry this didn't pan out.
Nymeth said…
I'm sorry to hear this was a let down! I've been craving a good book set in the middle ages lately, but sadly the one I read recently also proved disappointing :\

Popular posts from this blog

2015 Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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:, 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…