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Spider's Voice
     

Spider's Voice

4.5 4
by Gloria Skurzynski, Amy Crehore (Illustrator), Skurzynski
 

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"I need a servant who doesn't talk."

Thus speaks Abelard, outspoken and passionate church scholar. So Spider, mute and small, is saved from mutilation and poverty to keep watch as Abelard and his beautiful and gifted pupil Eloise commence one of the greatest love stories of all time. With a quick wit and a talent for listening well, Spider gradually

Overview

"I need a servant who doesn't talk."

Thus speaks Abelard, outspoken and passionate church scholar. So Spider, mute and small, is saved from mutilation and poverty to keep watch as Abelard and his beautiful and gifted pupil Eloise commence one of the greatest love stories of all time. With a quick wit and a talent for listening well, Spider gradually learns to read and write from his famous teachers, and in the end, finds his own unique voice, as well as his place in history as witness to a great love. Set against the backdrop of often frighteningly barbaric, always colorful medieval France, Spider's story is one you'll never forget.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The scandalous history of the doomed 12th-century lovers Abelard and Heloise forms the dramatic frame for a coming-of-age story that is also a meditation on servitude, the fragility of the human body and the power of language. Aran, the peasant boy who narrates, cannot speak because of a deformity that has bound his tongue to the bottom of his mouth. His abusive brother sells him in Paris, where his new owners sear his flesh into a metal carapace; his limbs will grow, but not his torso, making him a human "spider." He is rescued by the arrogant, brilliant teacher Abelard, who promptly has the carapace removed, but Abelard has an ulterior motive for his kindness: he needs a silent servant to watch over his liaisons with the beautiful Eloise (as she is here called), "the most learned woman in all of Europe." Scholars, however, cannot marry, and Abelard and Eloise hurtle toward separate fates. Abelard gets castrated by his enemies and in his fury cuts loose Aran's tongue, and as the boy gains speech, Abelard becomes a monk and Eloise a nun. Skurzynski (Virtual War) doesn't flinch from her often distressing subject matter, and her characterizations are complex, doing justice to the courage and passion of her protagonists. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)
VOYA - Vicky Burkholder
In the early 1100s, Abelard is the most famous scholar in all of France. He is also madly in love with Eloise, a young lady of good family whom he is tutoring. In order to keep their affair a secret, Abelard takes on Aran, a young mute boy, as a servant; someone who cannot talk, cannot tell tales. Raised by a brutish father and sold as a freak by his brother, Aran looks upon Abelard as a godlike figure. Through the ensuing years, Aran comes to realize that his hero is but a man-a very selfish, but brilliant man. Aran accompanies Eloise when she goes to Abelard's family to have a baby and falls in love with her, but is unable to do anything about it. After castration by Eloise's family, Abelard joins the priesthood and Eloise a convent. Aran continues to serve the two lovers by carrying letters back and forth between the hapless couple.

This fictionalized story is based on the true story of Abelard and Heloise of France. The end pages of the book give directions on how to access the actual letters and works of Abelard on-line, adding an interesting educational touch. While well written, this is not a leisure reading book but would be a good supplement to classes in French, Medieval history, and other similar studies.

VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).

Children's Literature
What would it be like to be the servant of one of history's most renowned pairs of lovers? Readers are treated to the imagined experience in this novel about Aran, nicknamed Spider, a fictional mute born in 1106. Young Spider's inability to talk makes him valuable to Abelard and Eloise, the actual twelfth century French scholars whose tragic love affair made them famous. Though the passion and drama of their romance is captivating, Spider's story is even more engaging. After Abelard saves him from being mutilated by a merchant who profits from human deformity, Spider devotes his life to repaying his master and mistress, and with their help, to learning. But Abelard's emotions are so intense, he pushes everyone, including Spider, "outside its consuming circle." Spider, often discouraged, struggles to find himself and his voice, discovering along the way that speech can sometimes be more destructive than silence. This fine novel is reminiscent of Catherine, Called Birdy. Though it lacks that novel's humor, it shares its vivid sense of time and place, has an equally compelling protagonist, and delivers more drama. Readers won't want to put it down. 1999, Atheneum, Ages 12 up, $16.95. Reviewer: Betty Hicks
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-This is the story of the famous medieval lovers Abelard and Heloise (here called Eloise), told from the point of view of a fictional servant. Aran, who has been tongue-tied since birth, is sold by his brutish brother to a freak dealer in Paris. Rescued by the charismatic Abelard, the silent boy seems to be the perfect servant for the revered scholar who is having an affair with his beautiful student, the niece of his landlord. Aran, called Spider by the lovers, becomes devoted to the pair. When the couple is discovered together, Eloise's uncle forces them to marry. However, to retain his status in the academic world, Abelard must keep his marriage a secret. The two separate, infuriating the young woman's uncle who desires the honors the celebrity union will bring him. In a fit of insane rage, he creeps to Abelard's lodging and castrates him in a bloody scene. In his uncontrollable agony, Abelard turns on Spider, who was supposed to guard the door, and with a knife, cuts his tongue free, enabling him to speak. The story is complicated and compelling, full of drama, love, and violence. Occasionally, credibility is strained by the twists of the plot. Nonetheless, Skurzynski is masterful in her characterizations, showing the subtleties of each person's nature and the ways in which they are changed by the circumstances of their lives. She delineates the complex relationship between the lovers in scenes that are sensual and descriptive. In his attempts to improve the lives of peasants, Spider shows a sensibility perhaps too modern. However, his intelligent observations of Eloise and Abelard and of life in 12th-century France more than make up for this shortcoming.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA
Childrens Book Watch
Aran's observations of a favored mentor and his romance with a beautiful woman color his life, but violence intervenes and turns a mute boy into a potential sideshow oddity in this story of early France. Spider's Voice, is a fictional account which recreates the story of Abelard and Heloise, 12th century French lovers, and adds many historical insights in a complex plot recommended for mature teens.
—Childrens Book Watch
Kirkus Reviews
Grand passion, terror, desire, comfort-it's all here, and much of it is actual history, in Skurzynski's spirited retelling of the story of Abelard and Eloise.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780689821493
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
02/01/1999
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.88(w) x 9.36(h) x 0.83(d)
Lexile:
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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Spider's Voice 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very rarely is the choise of runinng away the best thing to do. In this book the choise made him stronger and really helped him in the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was wonderful. It really was great. I loved it and felt that it was beautifullly written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding book... I don't know why they haven't made a movie about this book and why it is so hidden from the world. This book about courage and misery is a book to always remember.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Spider's Voice was a very interesting book. It is about a young boy who can not speak. He becomes a servant to Abelard and becomes part of the story of the famous French lovers, Abelard and Eloise. This book is very mature, so I recommend it for mature people. If you like stories of Medieval times, you should read this.