To Calais, In Ordinary Time
‘Inventive and original’ The Times
‘Fans of intelligent historical fiction will be enthralled’ Hilary Mantel
Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
Longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction
Three journeys. One road.
England, 1348. A gentlewoman flees an odious arranged marriage, a proctor sets out for a monastery in Avignon and a young ploughman in search of freedom is on his way to volunteer with a company of archers. All come together on the road to Calais. In the other direction comes the Black Death, the plague that will wipe out half of the population of Northern Europe.
To Calais, In Ordinary Time is an exploration of love, death and power, against the backdrop of catastrophe.
A most extraordinary novel, set in the fourteenth century, but with messages of great potency for our own extraordinary times . . . Brimful with comedy, wit, fantasy, violence and love, it is a dazzling provocation -- Walter Scott Prize Judges, 2020 An extraordinary act of literary ventriloquism . . . A stained-glass window to the past . . . Be it essay or article, novel or short story, as a writer and time traveller James Meek does things differently and as readers we are all the better for that * * Sunday Times * * Ambitious . . . Through skilful deployment of language, Meek manages to craft a living, breathing world populated with characters that come alive in the mind . . . This is a fine novel that seems to speak across centuries with more than the likeness of truth * * Financial Times * * A triumphant medieval fable . . . At the centre of this beautiful novel is an exploration of the difference between romance and true love, allegory and reality, history and the present. It plays out in unexpected and delightful ways, and it would be unfair to make these explicit. To Calais, In Ordinary Time ends with a consummation both of its technique and of its story that is affirming, tender and a little bit glorious * * Guardian * * Meek brilliantly creates a variety of voices, and a language appropriate to the 14th century, for a story of the distant past with unsettling echoes of the present * * Sunday Times * * An astounding linguistic fantasy about the advent of the Black Death. French, Anglo-Saxon and Latin collide in a world of fake news, uncertain sexual borders and the dread of a catastrophe which looks in some ways very much like our own -- PHILIP HENSHER * * Spectator, Books of the Year * * Meek employs great linguistic invention and remarkable imagination to conjure up a world in which readers rapidly become immersed * * Sunday Times, Books of the Year * * A glorious imaginative feat, full of complex, compelling, believable characters. Rarely have I been so captivated by a novel, so keen to hurry back to it and reimmerse myself in its world -- SARAH WATERS An inventive and original novel that captures the distant past and pins it to the page * * The Times, Book of the Month * * Fans of intelligent historical fiction will be enthralled by a story so original and so fully imagined. Meek shows the era as alien, which it is, and doesn't falsify it by assimilating it to ours. But his characters are recognisably warm and human -- HILARY MANTEL
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