Thursday, 11 December 2014
And here's a novelist making his mark in the Brave New World
It seems to me that we Indies should help each other. Here's a lovely Goodreads review which Donald Platt received for his fascinating new novel.
I am glad to puff it off for him here and hope other readers who like serious historical novels which are well told and tell a good story might read it.
REVIEW of Bodo the Apostate by Donald M. Platt
Donald is a fabulous technical and historical writer overall, but Bodo the Apostate (his newest novel) is nothing short of his best work all the way around. Not only is his writing immaculate and his history engaging, but in this book his dialogue and character's thoughts, personalities, and actions are so real and dimensional that I found myself enamored and smiling from the start.
The Bodo that Donald presents in this book (as of course, little was known of him and one-sided) is highly intelligent and advanced ("gifted") from a very young age. He's curious, inquisitive, thoughtful, analytic (I have some kids like that so I truly understand it), but in the Carolingian period, which is pre-Medieval age circa 8-9th century, religion was serious (yes, even more serious than by today's standards). Bodo is taken to be enrolled at the Academy located at the winter palace of Emperor Louis the Pious (the son of Charlamagne) for his smarts, and as well, his great-aunt just happens to be the mother of Emperor Louis.
So, when on the cover it states, " In a time of intolerance following your conscience is a dangerous choice...." I can totally understand this comment in relation to this book. When one is forced to become a priest and religion gets political and divisions are formed, loyalties demanded and abused, an educated person with a high intellect (these types of people generally think for themselves and don't follow the crowd, but make logical and educated decisions) is likely to not follow the demanded path. Bodo made a decision to change religions and flee to exile (this is historical record so I don't feel it is a spoiler), but the book mostly takes place prior to that. It was so very interesting reading of the path that led to his decision and his thoughts behind it. Donald takes what little historical detail was accounted for and intertwines the best scenarios he could deduce in order to bring us Bodo's story, while simultaneously showing us what led to the demise of the Carolingian Empire. In fact, most of the book really dealt with the political and religious issues of the times, using Bodo as the propelling plot to showcase it. However, he does give us probably one of the only, or at least, best accounts of what his life might have been like afterwards when he lived in Andalusia (al-andalus), Hispania.
I love Carolingian historical fiction. There is something about it that lies between truth and fantasy, so even the facts seem surreal. I've grown up loving this era and Donald's book is another wonderful novel on a list of highly regarded and entertaining books of this time period. Though the book is totally a historical fiction meant to be as authentic and plausible as possible, utilizing best guess based on research, in some way it just so reminded me at the start of something like Lord of the Rings. That's probably crazy, but the book reads as if someone is telling us a legend (like the Legends of King Arthur, but rather, the legend of Bodo the Apostate, not Bodo Proudfoot, Hobbit!!). I totally admire this story and was enthralled by each chapter. I definitely never wanted to have to stop reading it, but would rather have had a day to do nothing but be entrenched in this book.
Donald's writing is detailed, visual, entertaining, informative, interesting, and he creates characters that readers can relate or connect to, creating understanding among all various types of people and their relations with others. He writes with a courageous pen in order to honor little-known men in history that made giant decisions. I believe Donald likes to research, critically think, and put together and forth other accounts of those lost to history that could become their lasting legacy as much as he likes to write entertaining material.
Helping historians, as well as readers, to understand other sides of history and make sense of religious intolerance, strife, and its lasting ramifications does a great service way past adorning bookshelves. Donald writes historical fiction of true meaning in a fashion that is so very captivating.
Highly recommended for the true pre-Medieval or Carolingian reader who are made happy by this time period fantasy feel, as well as those who are interested in historical reference about the angst between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
I was given this book in exchange for a honest review. Opinions are my own.