The Hardest Thing to Do

The Hardest Thing to Do

by Penelope Wilcock

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Overview

A leader is making his way home. A priory has been torched. And now an enemy is knocking at the door.

Prior William has caused a lot of pain in his time and is known for being an evil man. So when his own priory is burned to the ground and he seeks refuge with the brothers of St. Alcuin, everyone is quite uncomfortably surprised.

The newly installed Abbot John faces the first challenge of his leadership as the brothers debate about mercy and justice, revealing their innermost thoughts and fears in coming face-to-face with a real enemy. After all, is it not positively ludicrous to invite a wolf in to live with the sheep? Yet, where is the beauty of the gospel without the risk of its grace?

Penelope Wilcock takes us on an imaginative journey into a world rife with hostility and pain, exploring the complexities of grace, the difficulties of forgiveness, and the cautions of building trust. Her intimate knowledge of the human spirit will challenge our very own prejudices as we, along with her characters, are forced to ask ourselves, “What is the hardest thing to do, and will anyone actually do it?”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433526558
Publisher: Crossway Books
Publication date: 07/28/2011
Series: The Hawk and the Dove Series
Pages: 252
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

PENELOPE WILCOCK is a full-time author living in Hastings, Sussex, on the southeast coast of England. Her blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way, is about a simple and spiritual Christian lifestyle. Her other books in The Hawk and the Dove series are The Hawk and the Dove, The Wounds of God, and The Long Fall.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“When I reached the last page of The Hardest Thing to Do, I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace. Abbot John and his monks are not the only ones whose hearts and lives are ripe for change; Penelope Wilcock’s legion of readers may find themselves altered as well. Mercy, grace, and forgiveness are woven throughout the story with a deft hand, as we meet a community of God’s faithful servants who are genuinely flawed yet always sympathetic. The descriptive passages are poetic, and the medieval details evocative, with a rich sense of time and place. I offer my highest praise and most heartfelt recommendation: you will love this novel!”
Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times best-selling author, Mine is the Night and Bad Girls of the Bible

“Penelope Wilcock has written a novel as deep and contemplative as the monks whose stories she tells. Her intimate knowledge of medieval monastic life sweeps you into the past, yet the struggles she chronicles are timeless. This book is not toss-away entertainment; it’s literature that pours from a poetic soul. Putting it down at the end of the day was the hardest thing to do.”
Bryan M. Litfin, Professor of Theology, Moody Bible Institute; author, The Sword, The Gift, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers

“Beautiful, profound, moving, and spiritual, this book is written out of the deep well that is Penelope Wilcock. As the reader is drawn to live in the ancient monastery of St. Alcuin and share the daily challenges of the community struggling to receive the grace of God and bring it into their world, each one of us comes to ask: 'What is the hardest thing to do?' and, 'Can I do this, with God's help?'”
Donna Fletcher Crow, author, Glastonbury: The Novel of Christian England and The Monastery Murders

“James the apostle wrote that ‘mercy triumphs over judgement,’ but some of the brothers of St. Alcuin’s Abbey find vengenance more satisfying than forgiveness in Wilcock’s delightful tale of medieval monastic life. The Hardest Thing to Do is wonderfully accurate to time and place, and perceptive in its treatment of the strife which can afflict even the people of God.”
Mel Starr, author, The Unquiet Bones, A Corpse at St. Andrew’s Chapel, and A Trail of Ink

"I am encouraged that your new book will be released soon—it's like the promise of spring to me—something precious to hold in my heart until the day comes."
Dorothy Bode, mother to eleven (so far...), Minneapolis, Minnesota

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The Hardest Thing to Do 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
msuzy More than 1 year ago
It actually makes you think. The book offers insight into the cloistered life of a different era. But more important it gives new insights into yourself as you contemplate what actually is "The Hardest Thing To Do" This is not the type of book I usually read. Butnthere was no way that I would not finish it.
RShelton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure what to think of the book when I first picked it up (it's about monastic life in the 1300's) but was pleasantly surprised with it. It was a great read, and while the main focus is on a group of monks in a monastery, the subject matter spans other genres. Two competing (this is a trilogy book, and since I never read the previous volumes, I didn't enjoy the knowledge of the past history) monastic sects are involved, and there is a great mystery with a fire and a monk who has escaped.The newly elected Abbot has to take leadership, show compassion, and learn his new duties all at the same time. And when a precieved enemy comes to their door, the group of monks must make a decision.Enjoyable read. While obviously being Christian-based, it has cross-over appeal. Note: there is also a glossary at the end of terms used in the book.
susanwhit on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Hardest Thing To Do is my first Penelope Wilcock's novel. I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC and wasn't really expecting the delight this book about monks offered. However, Wilcock hooked me quickly with her setting in a fourteenth century monastery, where I felt as though I was lurking with monks and perhaps snuggling from the bitter winter in a flea-bitten wool blanket and eating gruel right along with them. The novel takes the reader through the day-to-day routines and monotony of the monastery. When an uninvited guest ends up on their doorstep, the new abbot takes him in and doctors his wounds, much to the dismay and fear of all who've heard about this visitor. Most of the novel deals with the struggle all of them endure as Father John tries to come to grips with the descension and his own doubts, working towards forgiveness and trust. But the visitor must show himself worthy. The Hardest Thing To Do is surely a beautiful work of fiction and its thought-provoking story is gripping. I highly recommend this book for not only those interested in the medieval period but also those readers searching for inspiration in their daily lives.
randalrh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book will find its audience, who are most likely fans of intricate monastic detail provided with Lessons (capital intentional). I was often thrown off, however, by less than careful usages of modern phrasing in the midst of details of abbey life. "No big deal", for instance, dates from the nineteenth century (I looked it up), not the fourteenth.
deonva on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this novel through LibraryThing's early reviewer's program, I was not sure what to expect. It took a bit to get into the book, as I have little knowledge of monks. I did not realize this was fourth in a series, I had neither read or heard of the other books. As I got into the book I couldn¿t put it down! The book shows the effects of arrogance and the struggle to be able to forgive. It was very insightful on the life of a monk and intrigues me to learn more about them. I enjoyed this book very much and plan to read the previous books in the series.
ivyloojean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i received The Hardest Thing to Do as an ARC. I really just couldn't finish this book. Although well written, it just didn't hold my interest. Just not my cup of tea.g
baroquem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sometimes a story is all about the journey, not the destination. _The Hardest Thing to Do_ is not a surprising book; without knowing anything about it at all, one can guess at the central conflict of the narrative from the title alone, and the conclusion is not an unexpected one. And yet, it works well as a meditation on the difficulties of Christian forgiveness and human weakness.This book is the fourth entry in "The Hawk and the Dove" series, of which I knew nothing before picking it up. Set at a reasonably-sized English monastery, the story involves a cast of several dozen men. This is initially somewhat overwhelming, but I found that Wilcock does a good job of developing the distinctive personalities and quirks of at least the central characters. Helpfully, the book includes a character reference as well as a glossary, monastic schedule, and liturgical calendar. These latter items indicate the level of care the author has taken to depict the atmosphere of a classical Catholic monastery. Small details about the kitchens and choir, the rule of silence in the cloister and the chants of the Triduum liturgies, the fraternity of the brothers and the simplicity of the cells, all serve to enhance the authenticity of the novel. Unfortunately, that authenticity is not matched by the atmosphere of the late Middle Ages. I was never fully convinced by the language and idiom used by the characters, and there are one or two examples of anachronisms (or if not actual anachronisms, then easily perceived as such). While reading, I believed that I was in a monastery patiently experiencing the privations of Lent; I did not believe that I was in the century advertised.The other issue I had with the story is that the author sometimes violates the principle of "show, don't tell"; as a result, the central antagonist is never fully convincing as the twisted villain he's supposed to be. All his wickedness takes place offstage, as it were, but we never see that particular element of his character exposed in his actions. He seems to have undergone a significant part of his character arc before actually being introduced as a character.Utlimately, though, the story succeeds despite these problems because its conflict is an ancient and timeless one. The problem of forgiveness is still as relevant as ever ¿ and high-profile ¿ in today's world. Wilcock's work does not really break any new ground in our understanding of its mystery, but serves instead as a gentle reminder of that which all Christians ¿ and all people ¿ are called to do for one another.
turtlesleap on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First, let me congratulate Ms. Wilcox on writing a novel as part of a series that stand quite nicely on its own feet. There was no sense of discontinuity or puzzlement while reading this novel and, while I will search out the rest of her books in this series, it will be because I really liked her writing rather than to make sense of the book itself. Essentially, the book follows the period of Lent, day by day, in an Augustinian Monastery as the monks struggle with the issue of redemption and forgiveness. The new abbot, John, is seeking the best way to serve his community in his new role and to help his brethren find the right path without pushing his own point of view in the process. The characters are deeply complex and the decisions they make about themselves and about each other, are sensitively treated. There is no surprising revelation here, only a quiet unfolding of the best of human nature.There is a sense of calm tranquility in this work which compels the reader without titillating and which underscores moral lessons without proselytizing. I enjoyed Wilcox' writing greatly and recommend this work, not just for those interested in "religious fiction" but for anyone interested in reading about internal moral struggles.
Sturgeon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to admit being tempted to forget about reviewing this book, but that wouldn¿t really be fair to anybody. After forcing myself to finish the novel in the hope that something was going to happen, I shut the book feeling rather empty. The one spot where there certainly should have been tension and excitement, the final vote to accept or not accept Father de Bulmer into the Abby was dealt with in four short lines. After 205 pages of building up to this point, one would have expected at least a review of the monk¿s emotions, perhaps a count of the vote (which negates the entire point of the story ¿ was the monk forgive by a majority, or did he squeak in by one vote), or, who voted for and who voted against him - something, anything more than just, ¿Thank you my brother, you have a welcome in this house.¿With that predictable outcome and one other small bit of excitement, we are left with page after page of what basically lays out like a diary. A diary that would be interesting to the writer who knows all the details we are not given but which leaves the reader feeling pretty left out. The story might have been better with the proper language being spoken, a lot more character development to add some spice ¿ surely all the monks were not the boring, lifeless beings the book makes them out to be, along with the removal of the short chapters which contain a few paragraphs of¿nothing.In summary, I cannot recommend this novel to anyone. The people who would be interested for the historical information would probably be put off by the lack of period language use.
bethieng on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The hardest thing to do by Penelope Wilcock was a book that I could not get into. I attempted to read it multiple times but was not able to much further than the pages that I had read previously. The book did not hold my attention; it may be because of the topic or the setting - I am not certain of which. Overall, I found the pages that I read dull and uninteresting.
bunkie68 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book, an examination of the challenges of giving and asking for forgiveness, was a lovely read. I found the descriptions of monastic life soothing, and it was also nice to see flashes of humanity and the struggles it brings in the members of the Benedictine house where the book is set. I enjoyed it, and I would like to read other works by this author.
buriedinbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book from Library Thing Early Reviewers.The Hardest Thing to Do by Penelope Wilcock continues the story of the monks at St Alcuin's Abbey in the 14th century, begun in the first three books of the The Hawk and the Dove series. The different personalities bring this story alive as various members of the community struggle with the question, ¿What is the hardest thing to do?¿ Implicit in this question is that God is the one that asks them to do these things. The hardest thing to do for each of the monks varies from man to man, and from simple to complex, but shows the dedication of each man to living his beliefs out in community.I found it necessary to re-read the first three books of the series to understand the underlying nuances and background of the main conflict of this book. If you have not read the first three books, you may miss the import of Prior William's arrival at the and his plea for permanent shelter at St. Alcuin's Abbey and the potential it has to tear that community apart. There is some background given in The Hardest Thing to Do, but, to my mind, reading the original account gives a deeper understanding of the great love and respect the brothers had for the former (now deceased) Abbot, Father Peregrine, and the great insult inflicted on him by Prior William¿and thus, imparts a greater understanding of the violent reaction of some to his arrival.I am not normally a fan of religious fiction, but this series is an exception. I think this is because the characters are so honest and unassuming. None of them are portrayed as perfect, but they deal earnestly with their own character flaws and they sincerely love their Lord and their brothers. There is no romantic mush to clutter up the simplicity of men living out their devotion in community but there is drama enough to keep my interest through the entire book. The community portrayed here seems a far cry from most modern-day people's experience of Christian community, but the struggles, the desires, the passions of the monks are basic human emotions and experiences to which all of us can relate. Although the discipline and rigors of 14th-century monks are foreign to us living our soft, modern lives, this book shows us that simple men living in simple devotion to their Lord with strict discipline and much brotherly love offers us a wisdom lacking in today's religious whirlwind of busy-ness.
shesatimebomb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I certianly appreciated the details and the poetic elements of this book. I recieved it through the Early Reviewers program. It's not the type of book I would typically pick up, especially considering my views towards religion, however I was able to enjoy a few elements of the book. I hadn't read the previous books in this sereies, however, I was still able to follow, which is always nice. On the topics that the book addresses (and the means), such as forgiveness and trust, I feel could be better handeled by reading a non-fiction. However that's just to my personal tastes.
lauranav on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed The Hawk and the Dove so I fully expected to enjoy The Hardest Thing to Do as well. I was not disappointed. I enjoy how the story is well told, the characters are well drawn and become people we care about, and the lessons are such an integral part of the story that even the sermons are interesting and convicting.This story takes place at St. Alcuin's, a year after the ending of The Hawk and the Dove. The stories told and lessons learned before are still part of this story and the characters, like all of us, still have growing to do. I think it helps to have read The Hawk and the Dove first to be familiar with the setting and the history. Having read it, it's a little hard for me to say if it could be read enjoyably if you have not read the prior book. I do know that if it has been a few years and you don't remember all the details, this story provides enough detail that you understand what is going on without feeling you are missing something.The dust jacket describes the book as being about forgiveness and the cautions of building trust. In fact, I think this would make a good companion to Unpacking Forgiveness by Tim Brauns as it covers many of the same points in the context of the community.The story shows the need for compassion and the struggle we have to be compassionate with people who are difficult to love, or enemies and people who don't even seem to see their need to be forgiven or to change. I enjoy seeing the life in the community of the monastery, and the different ways the brothers behave and react, and the different levels of self-awareness they display. The concept of vocation, understanding the difference between a human weakness and a human sin, it's all covered here in a gentle yet convicting and encouraging way. I love spending time at St. Alcuin's with the brothers who live there.
smithwil on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'The Hardest Thing to Do' by Penelope Wilcock is the latest in her "The Hawk and the Dove" series. The first of three sequels to The Hawk and the Dove trilogy takes place one year after the end of the third book, in the early fourteenth century. The book wrestles with the difficulties of forgiveness and the cautions of building trust.Being new to the series, I was a bit taken aback at first by the highly detailed language of the activities at the abbey that is the site of the story. The writing, however, is excellent and once overcoming this one stumbling block, the story reads very well. The description said the story came in 'the form of journal entries' which originally attracted my attention, as I want to write a story or two in that form, myself. However, I did not find that assertion to be obvious; at least not in a useful way.I am certain that fans of Wilcock and her series will be pleased with this book. It is simply not something I would normally read, so I will go with 3 stars.
alphafem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got this book at the best time -- just before I went to the cottage. I spent a lovely two days with this book, becoming very well acquainted with the monks of the abbey and following them through the tortured decision that really was 'the hardest thing to do.' I was a bit hesitant at first, realizing this book was the follow up to an earlier trilogy, but enough of a background was provided that I didn't feel lost and indeed I am now interested in finding the earlier three books and reading them! The prose is simple, but powerful, and even though the cast seems a bit daunting at first, Ms Wilcock does an admirable job of providing characterizations that are straight forward and memorable. This is a book I probably would never have discovered on my own, so thank you Early Readers!
The_Bec on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I received this novel in the mail after winning it through LibraryThing's early reviewer's program, I was a bit worried. I knew that this book was going to be heavily based on religion, which didn't bother me, of course, but I was worried that it would be lacking depth and understanding. I was very surprised when I started to get into the plot of the novel. The characters, although many, started to develop, and the story-line started to fit among a lot of similar novels in literature, only it was done differently. The story follows a group of monks, settled in their lives, and beginning lent with a new abbot. All seems to be going according to plan, and, honestly, in an abbey, what else really can go amiss? Then, a prior comes to their door, knocking, searching for hope and charity. Only this prior is from another abbey, an abbey now infamous as the home of scoundrels and sinners. Needless to say, he is not welcome. However, through the course of the novel, forgiveness is given, even when none thought it possible. My only complaint is the author sometimes lost her grip with the 14th century language, but it wasn't anything that tripped me up. A beautiful, masterful story, made so with the classic act of forgiveness shown under new light.
flutelaura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! What can I say? This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read - could I afford a case of them, I would give them as gifts to everyone I know. Although the setting is fourth century England, the subject matter is timeless and one we all wrestle with from time to time - forgiveness. Even though I was unfamiliar with monks, the author was able to help me get inside the minds of the characters in the book. Their problems became my problems and I was frequently thinking of some of my own hurts and how hard it was to forgive and give another chance. The monks are endearing and loveable and very human, I often found myself chuckling at their personalities. The author uses the Lenten season to drive the story - it`s the perfect framework for a tale that will resonate with all of us who have been hurt by the cruel acts of another and need to be healed by the Master of Redemption.
SwordofaReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having read the Hawk and the Dove Trilogy many times, I was curious to see where this book would pick up. The story begins a year after the third book and it's the beginning of lent. The story bounces between the new abbot on his way to the abbey and the monks in the abbey awaiting the abbot. The characters are older, some have passed on, and some are new to the community. When the abbot arrives, the community is overjoyed at finally having their abbot back and the abbot is glad to be back. However, the community is shaken by the arrival of an old foe seeking forgiveness and shelter. The book was a beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Wilcock kept the feeling of the other three books and I enjoyed catching up with all of my old friends and meeting new ones. I would recommend reading the first three, but it isn't necessary. However, reading the first three allows you to meet some of the characters referenced in this book. I give this book a 5 stars out of 5 star rating and would recommend this to anyone from 10 to 99!
Onionspark on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Through the eyes of a community of monks, we explore themes of forgiveness, love, and redemption. As someone who is not particularly religious, I wasn't sure what to expect from this historical fiction with a Christian overlay, but I found myself pleasantly surprised. The characters are rich and human, and we see their struggles in trying to do the right thing and handle their own emotions. They felt like people, not a concept, and I really appreciated that. Similarly, the main antagonist is very human, and very understandable, when he could have been portrayed as a stock character. The overall plot and tone was sweet and heartwarming, and a lesson that can be applied to a reader's life no matter their religious following.
NovelEagle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don¿t know why I chose The Hardest Thing to Do by Penelope Wilcock from the June 2011 Early Reviewer¿s list on Library Thing. The book¿s arrival in my mailbox was a bit of a shock.The Hardest Thing to Do is so far from my normal reading patterns that I assumed at first glance that it would be torture for me to read and review it. How wrong I was.Even though there is not a single female of note in the book, I found myself drawn into the story to a remarkable degree.I write women¿s history. What was I doing reading a book with no women and about monks no less so nothing salacious. Not a single sensual hint throughout and yet the writing and the characters kept my eyes glued to the pages from start to finish. Luckily for me The Hardest Thing to Do by Penelope Wilcock is not a long book. It¿s a thin book without noticeable flaw. May I say congratulations for the outstanding editing?The Hardest Thing to Do is the fourth book in Penelope Wilcock¿s Hawk and Dove series. These books chronicle the events in a Benedictine monastery, and follow the monks who live their during their eventful lives.In this fourth volume, the titular abbot (called both Peregrine and Columbe, meaning ¿hawk¿ and ¿dove¿ respectively) has passed away, and the former infirmarian, John, is away finishing the necessary training to become the new abbot, leaving the monastery in the hands of a temporary leader.The Hardest Thing to Do takes place during Lent and shows the drastic deprivations the monks endure while preparing for the Easter when the gentle quiet of their lives will be interrupted by an influx of visitors, especially patrons upon whom the monks depend for their meager livelihood.Enter into the tale of self-denial and introspection, a refugee from a burned out Augustinian monastery noted for its gross mistreatment of the people in their village, [many suspect arson] but also known for having mistreated their now diseased but still much beloved Father Columbe some time in the past.Into this quagmire of discontent comes the newly minted Benedictine Abbot John, who must decide if this wayward and now homeless monk may find a new home and new brothers in this new abbey after having been turned away by everyone he sought refuse with in his long journey. But despite the prayerful requirements of this sacred period between Ash Wednesday and Holy Easter, some of the brothers being human hold grudges that supersede not only reason, but also basic compassion.The characters talk of other characters in a way that feels realistic, but also gives you a glimpse of the character behind that name. William, Their uninvited Augustinian guest holds and entirely different memory his encounter with Columbe and can¿t understand why the Benedictines consider it so terrible they would hold such grudges against him. To him the encounter had been a friendly debate to make a point to a third party. Rather than seeing their point of view that he had humiliated their beloved abbot, he considered Columbe the winner of the debate and was himself quite fond of the old abbot for having bested him. Overall, The Hardest Thing to Do was to put aside rash judgements and learn to forgive; to be more Christ like in their inner lives. Not being a Catholic myself, I can¿t critique The Hardest Thing to Do from a sectarian perspective but I found many of the monks sorely lacking in Christian charity although the book was enjoyable and as mentioned earlier virtual;ly free of errors which I as a novelist consider to be a remarkable accomplishment.The Hardest Thing to Do provides an interesting look into monastic life and may prove useful to someone looking for a relatively inoffensive read.
borneogirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book because I love historically based novels. While I haven't read the trilogy that precedes this book, the characters are realistic and the setting well researched. A new Abbott is coming to Alcuin's and the brothers are preparing for his arrival while continuing their lives of service. The life is difficult and there aren't any luxuries, but as the brothers tell the story, the reader is drawn into life in the monastery. There are blessings in the life of service as well as hardships. The monks set an example the can be used in everyday life now as insight on how to deal with struggles and triumphs that life deals. A good book to read and give as a gift to many different kinds of people.
Yogamom67 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first of three sequels to The Hawk and the Dove trilogy by Penelope Wilcox, a writer of Christian fiction who resides in Hastings, Sussex. I received an ARC of this book as part of LibraryThing's early reviewers' program.The novel takes place at a monastery during the 14th century and deals with the members of the monastery's dilemma when an old enemy comes to them seeking refuge. Can they trust him?  Should they trust him?  This is a quiet, thoughtful novel.  The chapters are short and while this aspect makes it easy to read, I must admit that I still had a hard time getting into the story. This is one of only a handful of Christian fiction novels that I've ever read. The tone was somewhat pious and I had trouble relating to the characters in the book.  I like historical fiction and have read Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, both historical novels dealing with life is monasteries. These novels appealed to me far more than The Hawk and the Dove.  If you are a reader of historical fiction, this is one I'd skip. However, if you like Both Christian and historical fiction - this might be a novel worth checking out!
SJWolfe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be surprisingly interesting in spite of the fact I had not read the trilogy which preceded it. The historiography seemed to be good, and the characters were engaging, well delineated and very human. The story is about a monastic house which is thrown into turmoil from two sides--a new abbot who is yet unsure of his station,and an old enemy who arrives to seek sanctuary from the very people he has hurt the most. The tale is simplistic in a way but teaches a valuable lesson in life, the lesson of forgiveness. This is a good, uplifting read for anyone who has ever found themselves in an uncomfortable situation which seems untenable until circumstances change not only the situation but also one's outlook upon it.
laneave on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿m a newcomer to this series, and I think that has been my greatest downfall in trying to read it. I¿ve jumped into the middle of a series before and been fine, but this was just too hard to get into. There are many characters, and I had a hard time latching onto the qualities that distinguished them from one another. As an enthusiast of historical fiction and religious fiction, I was looking forward to this book, but the writing itself didn¿t take me to the intended setting. I have considered revisiting this because so many other reviewers have enjoyed it, but it will be a while before I try to reread it. I would not say this is a bad book, but I think it requires the right mood and dedication.