The Road to Damietta

The Road to Damietta

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by Scott O'Dell
     
 

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A beautiful retelling of a high-spirited young man's transformation into Saint Francis of Assisi, told through the eyes of the girl who loved him with all her heart . . .
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Overview

A beautiful retelling of a high-spirited young man's transformation into Saint Francis of Assisi, told through the eyes of the girl who loved him with all her heart . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
O'Dell, one of the few American winners of the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, among other honors, has written what may be his finest novel. He notes that his book ``leans heavily upon'' Francis of Assisi by Arnaldo Fortini, translated by Helen Moak, who also added valuable findings of her own. The Fortini biography is deemed the best of countless histories of the saint, but O'Dell's novel is unsurpassed at recreating the human beings in the orbit of St. Francis and the places where the great events of his life occured. The narrator is Cecilia Graziella Beatrice Angelica Rosanna di Montaro (based on Angelica di Rimini, a contemporary of Francis). Called ``Ricca,'' the girl is 13, secretly burning with love for Francis Bernardone. The foppish, pleasure-bent youth is scorned by other men in Assisi, but adored by most women, including Ricca's slightly older friend, Clare di Scifi, whose family demands that she wed ``advantageously,'' which is the aim of the di Montaros for Ricca. Transfixed by Francis, the girls witness his public disavowal of his rich father when the scapegrace strips off his clothes and declares himself a mendicant for Christ. This is the beginning of the wanderings that take Francis and his band to Damietta where men of the Fifth Crusade slaughter the Saracens, in the name of Christianity. Ricca follows Francis and, through her words, we experience the horrors and the loss of hope when the saint's rapport with Sultan Malik-al-Kamil fails to bring peace. Bishop Pelagius, leading the crusade, drives his soldiers to further brutalities while the sultan shows the mercy expected from followers of the Nazarene. Back in Italy, Ricca is with Clarenow founder of the Poor Clares who imitate Francis's brotherly bandwhen the saint dies. It will be a long time before readers cease to feel the impact of O'Dell's drama and the influence of the saint who urged us to love each other and ``all things great and small.'' (12-up)
Children's Literature
When the young noblewoman Ricca di Montanaro first lays eyes on Francis Bernardone, she falls in love. But, while she remains locked away in the home of her wealthy father, Francis experiences a religious conversion that will lead him to become Saint Francis of Assisi. Despite Francis' conversion to the priesthood and her father's attempts to isolate her from his controversial teachings, Ricca stubbornly continues to profess her love for Francis, an unrequited love that takes her on a painful journey toward acceptance. At the end of this journey, she finds herself following Francis on the road to Damietta, the site of the Fifth Crusade and the stronghold of the sultan of the Moslem infidels; always skeptical of Francis' true religious devotion, it is not until the sultan himself lures Ricca into a plot of seduction that she finally realizes Francis as a holy man. A secular view of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi and the social and religious fabric of thirteenth-century Italy, the novel offers little in the way of transformation of the main character: Although the world around her tumults with the force of religious fervor, Ricca clings to her earthly love of Francis and her defiance of the church, so that what little transformation does occur in her world view at the end of the novel comes not from religion but from the love of a man. 2004 (orig. 1985), Graphia/Houghton Mifflin Company, Ages 12 up.
—Meredith Ackroyd
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10 This novel of 13th-Century Italy is both the story of Saint Francis of Assisi and of Ricca di Montanaro, a self-centered young noblewoman who falls in love with him. Francis Bernardone, the son of a wealthy merchant, was a handsome pleasure seeker much adored by the ladies of Assisi. Through Ricca, readers see him transform through the years into a deeply religious man devoted to peace, a oneness with nature and faith in God. Ricca's family is horrified by her continued pursuit of her love and sends her to a convent in Venice. But Italy becomes caught up in the zeal of the fifth Crusade, and Ricca follows Francis to Damietta in Egypt where she witnesses the horrors of war and a city under siege. There she also comes to realize that Francis is truly devoted to his religious life and will never return to the secular world. The sights, smells and biases of 13th-Century life are vividly and realistically portrayed. Although the strong, willful character of Ricca is believable, Francis remains elusive and underdeveloped. Much of Francis' dialogue includes quotes from his poetry. While they do reflect his philosophy, they are not sufficient for solid character development. However, Ricca's strength and the rich historical background make this an enjoyable reading experience. Cynthia M. Sturgis, Ledding Library, Milwaukie, Oreg.
From the Publisher

“O’Dell . . . has written what may be his finest novel. It will be a long time before readers cease to feel the impact of O’Dell’s drama and the influence of the saint who urged us to love each other and “all things great and small.” Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547562049
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
10/25/2004
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
578,463
File size:
203 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author


Scott O’Dell (1898–1989), one of the most respected authors of historical fiction, received the Newbery Medal, three Newbery Honor Medals, and the Hans Christian Andersen Author Medal, the highest international recognition for a body of work by an author of books for young readers. Some of his many books include The Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Road to Damietta, Sing Down the Moon, and The Black Pearl.

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