Monday, November 3, 2008

The Physician's Tale

The Physician's Tale by Ann Benson was originally published in 2006. My paperback copy is 655 pages. The Physician's Tale continues the story and/or includes characters found in Benson's previous books, The Plague Tales, The Burning Road, and The Thief of Souls. The formula Benson started in these tales is to have each chapter written as parallel narratives, one set in 21st century America and the other in 14th century Europe (or 15th in Thief of Souls) . The near future events are in the wake of a global epidemic while the earlier tale is during the plague-ridden era of the Black Death. This installment of her series isn't as well defined and sharply conceived and written as the previous books. There were times when you would lose interest in what was happening in both centuries. The Physician's Tale will be a definite read for fans despite it's falling a bit flat. For those who are not acquainted with Ann Benson's work, you do need to start with the first book, The Plague Tales, in order to fully appreciate them and follow the story line. While this installment is likely a 5 for fans, it's not as good as the previous books and likely deserves a 3, so I'll give it a rating of 4.

Synopsis from cover:
In the near future, in the hills of the American Northeast, a group of men, women, and children band together for survival. Among these people is Janie Crowe, a physician whose son is her greatest hope and deepest secret. Etched into Janie’s memory is the ancient journal of a Jewish man of medicine–a man who fought for survival in his own age of plague.

In Europe, in the age of the Black Death, Alejandro Canches must hide his identity–and break his oath as a physician for the sake of his and his loved ones’ lives. As the plague ravages the countryside,, Alejandro’s daughter Kate is caught in the clutches of King Edward of England. Now Alejandro must make a desperate journey to Windsor itself, where a clever scribe named Geoffrey Chaucer has hatched a fantastic plan for Kate’s escape....

"It was the first spring after the long, hard winter that marked the second coming of the plague called DR SAM." first sentence

"Alejandro covered his nose against the putrid plague smell and put his head to the man's chest." pg. 14

"For weeks the atmosphere at Windsor Castle had been strained and stiff, and Chaucer had begun to wonder if a life of service to the royals was a wise choice." pg. 19

"Goats were gold - mostly for their milk, since only a few of the cows had survived." pg. 33

"After all, what business was it of his if a lady enjoyed bathing? Such healthy behavior was to be encouraged, especially among the stinking French." pg. 126

"Grand-pere, are you all right?... It is just that, well... you are weeping." pg. 169

"They left him alone to consider the ramifications of his first act of intercommunal diplomacy." pg. 176

"He recalled the words of the Talmud: When we face our Creator in our last hours, we must answer for all those pleasures we have not tasted: So, too, he assumed, would God hold him responsible for all the knowledge he had not managed to acquire." pg. 320

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